Arion Lyre

86. Don Quixote, Book I, by Miguel de Cervantes, illustrated by William T. Wiley

Don Quixote, Book I, by Miguel de Cervantes, Translated by Edith Grossman, Illustrated by William T. Wiley, November 2009.

Sample page, I Love My LoveThis is Book I of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, in the brilliant translation by Edith Grossman, in a deluxe limited edition of 400 copies. Book II follows in 2010. The Arion Press edition of Don Quixote takes its place in a distinguished tradition of illustrated versions of Cervantes’ comic masterpiece. Over the centuries, the adventures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza have inspired artists and illustrators, including Rowlandson, Fragonard, Boucher, Goya, Doré, and Picasso. The Arion edition is illustrated by the acclaimed contemporary artist William T. Wiley.

It was the reception this book received, rising on the best-seller list in the months following its release (rather like the surprising popularity of Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf in 2000) and the delight we experienced in reading it that led us to consider producing an Arion Press edition. This has been an enormous undertaking, comparable in effort to the earlier Arion editions of Melville’s Moby-Dick (1979) and Joyce’s Ulysses (1988).

Don Quixote is considered to be the first modern novel and among the greatest works of literature in the world. It was published in two volumes, the first in 1605, the second in 1615. Miguel de Cervantes was born in Alcala de Henares, Spain, on September 29, 1547. He enlisted in the Spanish militia at twenty-three and fought against the Turks in the battle of Lepanto in 1571, where he was wounded in his left hand and permanently crippled. After four years at sea he was captured by Barbary pirates and enslaved for five years. Cervantes began to write Don Quixote in debtor’s prison. During the ten-year interval between the two volumes, an imposter seeking to profit from pent-up demand wrote a sequel to Book I. Cervantes revenged this transgression in Book II, when Don Quixote visits a printing house in Barcelona where the pirated edition is being printed and he disparages it. A large broadside of this incident has been excerpted and printed on our handpress as a gift to all who order the Arion edition.

The artist for Don Quixote is William T. Wiley. Though Wiley has made art for two previous Arion editions, The Voices of Marrakesh by Elias Canetti in 2001, and Godot, an imaginary staging of the play by Samuel Beckett in 2006, he seems to have been destined to do Cervantes. When the project was proposed to him, Wiley said, “Oh, I couldn’t to that; it’s too much me!” Eventually he came around, and in his typically generous manner has made forty-two full page prints for Book I, and fifty-five for Book II.

The incidents from the novel Wiley depicts are comedic and tragic. It was as ludicrous in 1605 as it would be today for a delusional man to dress up in armor, to arm himself with sword and lance, and to go forth upon a broken-down nag to right wrongs and rescue maidens. Wiley has, of course, shown the famous scenes of Don Quixote going mad in his library while reading and believing books on chivalry, the burning of his books, the Don and his horse Rocinante vanquished by a windmill, Sancho Panza tossed in a blanket, the Don’s antics at his retreat in the wilderness, Quixote slashing wineskins, the errant knight captured, caged on an oxcart, conveyed to his home, and put to bed, and much, much more.

The prints are made by the artist scratching the emulsion from film with an etching needle; the negatives are then used to make polymer plates, which, when printed by letterpress, produce relief prints with the linear quality of etchings. This method is the reverse of intaglio prints, where the etched, engraved, or dry-point line is recessed in a metal plate. The scratched negative is right-reading, contrary to an intaglio plate where the image is reversed. Of course the polymer plate, too, has a mirror image, but the artist has the advantage that he sees what he will get when working on a light table to produce the matrix.

A major traveling retrospective of his works in painting, drawing, sculpture, and prints opened at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in Washington, D.C. in 2009.

Read more about the translation and the artist.

Don Quixote cover and slipcase

Don Quixote is printed by letterpress on an all-cotton fiber sheet made to our specifications for this project by Mead Specialty Papers, supplied by Legion Paper. The type is Centaur, designed by Bruce Rogers, composed and cast by Mackenzie & Harris. The size of the text type is large, 16 point, cast on a 14-point body, leaded two points, so that the effect is solid 16 point, producing a desirable weave to the page. The initial letters were drawn by Mallette Dean in 1963 for the Grabhorn Press, a set of capitals intended for use with Centaur type. The illustrations are printed in sepia, the type in black, and the initials in red-brown. The format is 10.375  by 7 inches, 576 pages for Book I, 632 pages for Book II. The binding is three-piece goatskin with dark brown for the spine with gold titling and tan for the sides, with a DQ monogram in gold, designed by Wiley, on the front cover. The sections are sewn by hand with hand-sewn headbands at top and bottom. The books are presented in slipcases, with tan cloth around the top, spine, and bottom, dark brown paper sides, and spine label. The books are numbered and signed by the artist. The price of each volume is $2,000 ($4,000 for the set). Available.

Don Quixote print by William T. WileyWilliam T. Wiley has created a colored relief print, “Don Quixote in a Printing House in Barcelona”, to accompany a copy of the broadside of that incident, as described earlier, that can be purchased with the books. Both the print and the broadside are 24 by 18 inches, printed on Somerset English mouldmade paper. The printmaking process for the black plate is the same as for the book, with three additional colors printed from polymer plates. The edition of the print is forty copies for sale, five artist’s proofs, and five printer’s proofs. All are numbered and signed by the artist. The price is $1,500.

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Edition: The illustrations are printed in sepia, the type in black, and the initials in red-brown. The format is 10.375  by 7 inches, 576 pages for Book I. The binding is three-piece goatskin with dark brown for the spine with gold titling and tan for the sides, with a DQ monogram in gold, designed by Wiley, on the front cover. The books are numbered and signed by the artist in an edition of 400 copies. The price of each volume is $2,000 ($4,000 for the set).

William T. Wiley has created a colored relief print, “Don Quixote in a Printing House in Barcelona”, 24 by 18 inches, printed on Somerset English mouldmade paper, with black plus three additional colors printed from polymer plates. The edition of the print is forty copies for sale, numbered and signed by the artist. The price is $1,500.

Order the books securely online now:

Reserve books (and optional print) and pay offline:

Reserve your copy


Read more about the translation and the artist.