This month we are happy to honor the work of Janus Press, founded sixty years ago by the tremendously talented Claire Van Vliet. Van Vliet is an SDSU alumnus who received her BA in 1952 before completing her MFA at Claremont Graduate School in 1954. Upon graduating from Claremont, Van Vliet founded Janus Press in Monterey, California, and her first book - John Theobald’s An Oxford Odyssey, with woodcuts created by Van Vliet herself - was published on February 14, 1955.
The titles from Janus Press are particularly special as they illustrate some of the most creative, innovative endeavors of contemporary artists and authors who seek to honor the book as both a literary work and a vessel of artistic expression. Van Vliet explains that the name Janus Press comes from “the ancient Roman god of the rising and setting sun whose ability to simultaneously look forward and backward signified balance during the Renaissance.” She goes on to note that the Press stands “for books made within the great tradition of that form as well as works of a highly experimental nature.” Through the years, Janus has published works by over sixty authors, including everything from ancient lyrical poetry by Sappho through reprints of more contemporary works, by authors such as Emily Dickinson, and first editions of up-and-coming authors.
SCUA has a standing order with Janus Press, and is proud to house more than one hundred titles to date, including several copies of An Oxford Odyssey. In commemorating the 60th anniversary, we thought we would share with you some highlights from the Janus Press Collection.
Written by Lauren Rasmussen.