The New Walden (By Matt Steel)

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  • identity

    Hey All,

    Been SOME TIME since Ive posted in here - but felt like it was appropriate.

    Our old friend (and 10+ year QBN contributor) Metagramme (Matt Steel) has redesigned and edited Walden for a broader reach to the masses. He has his book as a kickstarter live today. Thought that some of the old guys on here might want to check it out :…

  • monospaced1


  • prophetone1

    Very, very nice.

  • Gnash1

    Just pledged as well. Looking for forward to the book.

  • JackRyan0

    Wow, that looks great.

  • deathboy1

    Thoreau probably would be pissed. This project seems to kind of go against the whole point of the book and his personal philosophy

    “To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that will tax the reader more than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem. It requires a training such as the athletes underwent, the steady intention almost of the whole life to this object. Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.”

    ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

    • I think you're right. It took me a while to come to this conclusion, and it's looking like the campaign might have been cursed by the adaptation approach.gramme
  • instrmntl0

    Pledge $48 or more

    35 backers

    The Book. One copy of Walden. Signed and numbered. 10 bars of Mast Brothers Chocolate.

    • I kid!

      Book looks beautiful. Well done Metagramme (Matt Steel)!
  • identity0

    Aye! great stuff gents (and ladies).
    How ya'll been?

  • gramme1

    Hey y'all! It's great to see some of the old crew still here.

    @identity, thanks for the post!

    Based on articulate input from the literary community and our own new reflections on how best to help Walden remain contemporary, we have decided to forego the adaptation, and instead publish a new hardcover edition of Walden with the original text and annotations tailored for a modern reading experience.

    @deathboy, you're right. I revisited that particular passage, and it was one of the factors that made me decide to change scope.

    So on Feb 24, we overhauled the campaign. I have no idea if this will work. If the campaign isn't funded (and we have a VERY steep hill to climb in the next 12 days), then at least I'll have learned some very valuable lessons.

    Check out the revamped page here:…

  • pressplay2

    The design does look great and it’s a gorgeous object, but I have the feeling this project goes against the philosophy propagated in the book. A coffee table book does not say simplify, although the word is printed on the back.

    If your point is to bring Walden to a broader audience, why does it cost 38$ (or more)?
    Why the annotations? Walden stands in the tradition of enlightenment, meaning making use of your own critical thinking, not taking the easy route.
    Why the big margins? The big type? Hardcover? The first – and biggest – part of Walden is about economics. Thoreau almost lists the cost of every fucking nail he used to build his cabin. That was clearly very important to him. So why the uneconomic use of space here?

    This seems to me like a missed opportunity to really translate the books message into the design. To make something that is both sustainable and desirable and keeps up with the spirit of the book.

    For example, my edition of the book by a german publishing house is printed on 60 g/sqm paper. Type is rather small and fills the whole page. It was cheap. It’s light. It’s pocketable. I could really take it with me if I decided to live in a small cabin in the woods for some time.

  • gramme2

    pressplay, thanks for your thoughts.

    I don't think my edition is contrary to Thoreau's philosophy at all. Thoreau was one of America's first environmentalists, and this edition will last for hundreds of years. I'm taking the long view on sustainability here. As Dann Petty said, "buy nice or buy twice." If you want a book to last a really long time, it takes sturdy, premium materials. In that sense, this edition is very economical and simple: you'll never need to buy another edition of Walden. It won't wear out or get banged up very easily, and the rounded spine will allow the binding to last longer. Long-lasting production values seemed appropriate for a story with great staying power.

    Re: reaching a broader audience, that's what the $15 digital version is for. (you can find free digital versions of Walden, but all of them are unattractive). The printed book is more of a collector's item, although it's priced much lower than the average collector's edition.

    My edition will be about 6.6" x 9," slightly bigger than the average hardcover novel. The first edition of Walden was larger than mine, with a blind-stamped floral design on the front cover and gold foil on the spine. So while he was a proponent of living simply, I don't think Thoreau was utterly spartan in every single category. I think it would be a stretch to say that a cheap, pocket-sized edition of Walden is the ideal format for the text. The pocket editions certainly have their place, as do the collector's editions.

    If published, this will be the fourth annotated edition of Walden. The other three have much more comprehensive notes. My approach is more streamlined, and it is actually an exercise in simplicity. By defining archaic terms, providing notations for mythological / historical references that are less widely-known now than in HDT's day, and giving bibliographical info for literary references, the reader can keep their phone in their pocket or their 19th c. dictionary on the shelf. I'm avoiding the background info and in-depth commentary that you'll find in Cramer's or Harding's editions. That stuff is great for study, but I wanted to make something that's more attractive to the lay reader.

    Annotations become almost indispensable over time because of the evolution of language. It's a courtesy to the reader. People will still have to "stand on tip-toes" to understand this edition Walden.

    (See the KS page for more on my approach to annotations.)

    The wide margins were designed to provide enough space for small but legible side notes. Side notes aligned with the baseline grid are much more user-friendly than footnotes.

    Body copy is 10 pt Lyon, so pretty economical. And my page count will be pretty close to the first edition.

    The big type – I'm guessing you mean the epigraphs w/ green backgrounds? Those are mainly for the sake of pacing. I find that providing readers with peaks and valleys helps hold their attention. It's particularly helpful when dealing with one of the most complex books in the history of American literature.

  • Gnash2

    I really hope the project gets funded. I've already bought one -- a bargain for a collector edition -- and I'll pledge for another, as well.

    nice work, gramme. If this project doesn't get funded then start another using the insights you've gathered from this round.

    Make sure to keep us posted.

    • Thank you very much! I really appreciate the support.gramme
  • detritus0

    Good luck, gramme - but I've held back from saying anything here for pretty much the reasons DeathBoy posted - it seems to me that this entire exercise is antithetical to everything that spoilt brat Thoreau claimed to stand for.

    but hey, I'm a eurofag, so what do I know?

    • Not sure where 'eurofag' came from. This isn't 8 years ago on 4chan...detritus
    • but it's not antithetical, really. there is absolutely nothing wrong with an annotated book in this context.Gnash