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Minds of the Press, Vol. 2

Updated: Jan 8

Marcelo Anciano of Areté Editions

Though Areté Editions is a relatively new fine press, the collective expertise that comprises this endeavor is staggering. It began in 2020 with an idea for a project that brought together veterans from every part of the industry and resulted in the first Areté Editions release, The Case of Death and Honey by Neil Gaiman. Not satisfied to let a wonderful collaboration go to waste, Marcelo will continue working with this group and already has a long list of projects in progress. We are elated to share some of the conversation we had with him and hear about what led to the development of Areté Editions, as well as what is in store for the future of the imprint.

Q: You started Areté Editions in 2020 after a conversation with Phil Abel (Hand & Eye Editions) and a desire to collaborate on a short story by Neil Gaiman. You had also been conversing with Gary Gianni about illustrating a book together and eventually pulled in Rich Tong (Ludlow Bookbinders) to put it all together. What drew you to each of these artists and how did you share the artistic vision between members of the team?

The Artist's Edition of The Case of Death and Honey

Areté started with The Case of Death and Honey, however, Death and Honey started a year before Areté. I had been making books for decades, many were with Gary illustrating. In fact, the first limited-edition book I made in 1998 was with Gary, The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane (this was before the internet age took off and selling a book like that was a constant stream of fairs and conventions, and we sold many through comic shops because of the lavish illustrations throughout the book). Gary and I have made books together ever since. We had spent many years working with George RR Martin on his stories set in the Game of Thrones world, and an art book as well. We had also recently done a book of a richly illustrated version of Lovecraft’s Call of Cthulhu, two versions of that actually, (a sketchbook version before the completed one) which was finally published by Flesk. The book was the outcome of the concept to meld cinema and books together, something we had been constructing for decades.

During the start of the worldwide COVID lockdown, my project with HBO was stopped due to the loss of our executive producers to Amazon’s Lord of the Rings project (Rings of Power). Gary was working on designing some of Martin’s HBO House of Dragons environments and style, taking a break from illustrating books. Then he lost his beloved brother, Tom Gianni, who succumbed to cancer a few weeks into lockdown. We both knew it would happen but the loss to Gary was huge. He felt he needed to re-evaluate his work. He had lost the drive to do fantasy.

Early sketch for The Case of Death and Honey by Gary Gianni

I suggested that we do a book, not with any idea of publishing it, just a way to create something for us while lockdown closed the world. Creating a book is an organic thing. We start from doodles, find the vision of the story and then work on the reading experience, we’ll perhaps get more into that later, and then finish with the more constructed text and pictures, but we start with hundreds of Gary’s doodles. I suggested that he look at some of Neil’s short stories. The Call of Cthulhu was only about twenty pages long and we had made it into a ninety-page book, that had meant that we could really play with the reader’s cinematic experience. I thought we could do the same with another story. Gary remembered Neil Gaiman’s The Case of Death and Honey, a story that resonated even more for him after his brother’s passing. I actually said to him, “But what’s there to illustrate?” He replied, and I’m paraphrasing; “that the story enables me to find the moments of quietness and open up what is implied by the characters interactions. And it was Sherlock Holmes.” We started, and Gary found his creative mojo and we found a book, although a very sketched-out one, it had a voice. I then asked Neil if we could publish it and, when he saw what we had done, was very enthusiastic. It did help that I had known him for decades and he was a big fan of Gary’s work. We had planned to go to a mainstream publisher to print it, but I also wanted to make a high-end letterpress book too, originally, I had p