Announcing the Empyrean Series; Reprinting the Anti-Canon

“Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.”

Kurt Vonnegut

It’s a long-held belief of mine that every press worth its salt should be, at least a little bit, in the business of preserving the absolute wealth of texts that have fallen out of print, out of copyright, out of the readerly imagination. It is with this missionary zeal that we announce the Empyrean Series, a new imprint of Sublunary Editions dedicated to compiling and curating editions of out-of-print/hard-to-come-by works from the annals of literary history.

Officially joining the team at Sublunary Editions is Jacob Siefring, best known as the most prolific translator of the French author Pierre Senges, who will serve as co-editor of the series along with publisher Joshua Rothes.

These are neither OCRed texts nor facsimile reproductions. All Empyrean titles are researched, transcribed, and edited by the Sublunary team, and will even on occasion feature restored passages and fresh translations not available in any extant editions. In the spirit of our larger project, most (though not all) of these volumes will be brief—novellas, poetry collections, volumes of short stories, long articles, etc.—that have evaded the vast automated hordes that populate the search results of Amazon.

New titles will appear sporadically throughout the year.

Without further ado, our first five titles, available for pre-order right now, are:

Three Dreams by Jean Paul Richter and Laurence Sterne

“When we are told in childhood that, at midnight, when sleep draws near to our souls and darkens our dreams, the dead arise from their sleep and in churches act out the masses of the living, we shudder then at death, on account of the dead. . .”

This brief volume collects together three dream sequences, two by the German writer Jean Paul, and one by the English author of Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne. From Jean Paul, we featured Thomas De Quincey’s translation of “Dream Upon the Universe”, a fantastical sequence taking place at the far reaches of the visible universe, as well as “The Dead Christ Proclaims That There is No God”, an original version of “Rede des toten Christus vom Weltgebàude herab, dass kein Gott sei” edited together by Jacob Siefring. Sandwiched between these is a fragment by Laurence Sterne, which has typically been titled “A Dream” in his collected works. Ostensibly science fiction, the fragment—first published in a French edition of Sterne’s works in the last 19th century—has Sterne waxing whimsically about scales of life great and small.

48 pp. | Pre-order

Vagaries Malicieux by Djuna Barnes

“A quiet man, this Joyce, with the back head of an African idol, long and flat. The back head of a man who had done away with the vulgar necessity of brain-room.”

Djuna Barnes did not think particularly highly of this piece, published in The Double Dealer in 1922, calling most of it “horrible junk” in the margins of her copy. Perhaps she attempted to seem more worldly and aloof than she really was—after all, she seemed unimpressed by both Joyce—she admits here to daydreaming as he talks—and Paris, despite her admiration for the former and her settling in the latter. Still, it is an important document of a critical moment in Barnes’s life and career, one worthy of the enterprising reader.

38 pp. | Pre-order

The Last Days of Immanuel Kant by Thomas De Quincey

“His powers of mind were (if I may be allowed that expression) smouldering away in their ashes; but every now and then some lambent flame, or grand emanation of light, shot forth to make it evident that the ancient fire still slumbered below.”

Billed as an original piece when it appeared in Blackwood’s Magazine in February 1827, The Last Days of Immanuel Kant is largely De Quincey’s translation and embelishing of the account of the theologian Ehregott Andreas Wasianski, the amanuensis, friend, and caretaker of Kant during his last years. The version of the text published here closely follows the version published in De Quincey’s Narrative and Miscellaneous Papers, Volume II (1853), while in several passages it follows the revised version printed in Miscellanies: Chiefly Narrative (1854) by James Hogg.

90 pp. | Pre-order

Maria Wutz by Jean Paul

“I would not envy his writing such masterpieces. It gave the man the most terrible trouble—constipation half the week, a head cold the other.”

Published in 1793, The Life of the Merry Little Schoolmaster Maria Wutz in Auenthal was one of Jean Paul Richter’s most beloved works. Maria Wutz’s eponymous protagonist is a schoolteacher who dreams of a library far beyond his means, one that could capture all of history, but most of all the zeitgeist. The only book he can afford is a catalogue, and from this, he takes it upon himself to write his own version of every title, from Kant to obscure treatises on physiognomy. This version of Maria Wutz is adapted from Francis and Rose Storr’s translation, printed in Maria Wuz and Lorenz Stark (London: Longmans, Green, & Co, 1881). Several passages omitted from the Storrs’ version are newly translated by Ruth Martin.

72 pp. | Pre-order

If You Had Three Husbands by Gertrude Stein

“She was brought up by her mother. She had meaning and she was careful in reading. She read marvelously. She was pleased. She was aged thirty-nine. She was flavored by reason of much memory and recollection.

Written in 1915 and serialized in The Broom in 1922, “If You Had Three Husbands” is an incantatory prose poem concerned with triangulating a description of newly arisen modes of production, and in particular self-production, between avant-garde art, popular media, and the still-dominant domestic sphere, the latter of which, one may come to find, is as dramatic a realm for roiling cultural change as any.

30 pp. | Pre-order

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Jacob Siefring, MLIS, is a translator and independent researcher. In his role as co-editor of the Empyrean series, he is dedicated to the rediscovery and revitalization of great works from the history of world literature. His literary translations from the French include several books by Pierre Senges: Geometry in the Dust (Inside the Castle, 2019); Studies of Silhouettes (Sublunary, 2020); and Rabelais’s Doughnuts (Sublunary, forthcoming 2022). He lives in Ottawa, Ontario, where he works at the public library. He can be found at jsief.com.