Skip to content
Announcing the winners of our 2020 Poems in Translation Contest in partnership with the Academy of American Poets. Read more.

The Smallest Publisher in the World

By Matteo B. Bianchi

What are you willing to do for your favorite book? If you consider yourself a book lover, think again. What follows is the most incredible story I've ever heard about loving a novel. Last December, after a reading in Padua, I was approached by a young woman who gave me a book as a present. "I am the publisher," she told me. "And I'd like to tell you the story behind this book, but not now. This place is too crowded and noisy. Can I write you an email?"

I thanked her for the gift and I told her that of course she could write me.

Later, at night, in my hotel room, I looked closely at the book. It was a novel by a French author named Alexandre Jardin. It was a lovely edition, with a nice glossy cover and printed on quality paper. The name of the publisher, Camelopardus, was completely new to me and inside the book I couldn't find any clues about the other titles that they published. To know more, I had to wait for the email that the woman promised to write me.

This was the story I found in my email three days later: the woman was named Sara and she lived in a small city called Este, near Padua. Her best friend since her teenage years was a girl named Camilla. They always felt they were more than friends and started to call each other sister. But life separated them. After graduation, Sara stayed in Este, and Camilla moved to Geneva.

During one visit back to Italy, Camilla brought a present to Sara. It was the novel Le Zèbre by the French author Alexandre Jardin. She told her best friend this was her favorite book of all time. Sara read it and loved it as much as she did. It instantly became "their" book.

Sara was eager to know more about Jardin, but she soon discovered none of his books had been translated into Italian. She couldn't believe that such a good author was ignored in her own country. Most of all, she couldn't believe that such a fantastic book was unavailable to Italian readers.

Months passed and nothing happened. No translations by Alexandre Jardin appeared in bookshops.

Sara couldn't wait anymore. She talked to Camilla. Since they both loved the novel so much, why shouldn't they open a small press and publish it by themselves? Camilla agreed.

First they wrote to the publisher of Jardin in France. It was a big publisher and they didn't even expect to be considered. But they got an answer and then they got the rights to the translation. Not only that, but Alexandre Jardin wrote to them. He was excited about what they were doing, and also gave them suggestions for the translation. They couldn't have been happier.

They did everything by themselves: they translated the book, found a printer, found a designer for the cover and opened a website.

The book came out in 2006.

After their interest, a big Italian publishing house bought the rights to other Jardin titles. And theirs was already a success.

But Sara and Camilla had done something unique: to open a press only in order to publish one single book, the one that they loved the most, and to share their love for it with all other Italian readers.

I guess nobody can beat that.

(This story is for real. If you don't trust me, go to and write to them directly.)

Published Jun 5, 2007   Copyright 2007 Matteo B. Bianchi

Leave Your Comment

comments powered by Disqus
Like what you read? Help WWB bring you the best new writing from around the world.