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Erratum Press New Sheffield-based press hopes to infiltrate literature with "calculated acts of cultural barbarism"

Erratum Press will publish innovative new works of fiction alongside reprints of hard-to-find books from writers such as Edward Carpenter.

Last Days front cover

Last Days of Pompeii – Vol. I by Steve Hanson is the first book on Erratum Press.

Erratum Press.

A new Sheffield-based imprint is hoping to build a new literary scene in the city, starting with an eclectic range of books exploring civilisation and its discontents.

In their mission statement, Erratum Press say they will "gather books that confront the dead end of educated, literary culture, and deploy that culture against itself."

Their first publication is a new novel by writer and researcher Steve Hanson, which Erratum says "skewers contemporary English life with a satire and a serious warning about our state of complacency."

Last Days of Pompeii – Vol. I is set in Manchester and concerns a bored art school lecturer who recalls his past life in a small town.

"Publishing is a hard game to make gains in, there's little between the tiny publishers who vanish for months, even years, without responding to an email and the vast umbrella imprints who seem similarly remote because your book is one of hundreds of units", Hanson told Now Then.

By contrast he said that Erratum are "fully engaged with their authors and are making innovative work".

As well as new works of fiction and theory-fiction, the imprint will reissue old books that are out-of-print or hard to find. Their first is Civilisation: Its Cause And Cure by 19th century socialist and Sheffield-based gay rights pioneer Edward Carpenter.

Carpenter's revolutionary book questions the idea that 'civilisation' represents progress for all humankind and instead frames it as a disease that must be cured.

"The motivations behind setting up Erratum Press are probably not unlike those which lie behind the work of many of the small presses already out there," said founder and editor Ansgar Allen.

"In part, frustration at the big and established publishers and their publishing practices which reinforce hierarchies of power and influence and, in the case of fiction, which tend to favour the most exhausted and tired forms that the novel has taken."

This sense of frustration with the small-c conservatism of most literary fiction (writer Jonathan Meades once said that there is nothing novel about most novels) is evidently important to Allen.

Prominent on the press's website is a quote from John Barth, which asks whether "the novel, if not narrative literature generally, if not the printed word altogether, has by this hour of the world just about shot its bolt."

As if answering this challenge, another new bookbone bite snare by Michael Mc Aloran – is described as a "post-Beckettian series of fragmented yet interactive experimental prose poetic texts."

"The big publishers generally do not take risks on texts and authors that have no ready audience, and reinforce mainstream audience expectations in a kind of mutually reinforcing feedback loop," said Allen.

According to Erratum's founder, this leads to audiences being "fed the same kinds of material, and those same audiences acquiring a taste for more of the same."

Bone bite snare cover image

bone bite snare by Michael Mc Aloran.

Erratum Press.

Another reprint, of 1598's The Scourge of Villanie by John Marston, is described (somewhat offputtingly) as "neither great literature nor even great satire" in an introduction written for a previous edition in 1925.

"Its lines are usually turgid, allusions are most difficult to follow, and the whole, even for Elizabethan satire, is very liberally bescumbered," writes Professor G.B. Harrison.

"But, for all that, neither the Scourge nor its author can be neglected by anyone who wishes to understand the mentality of English writers at the close of the sixteenth century."

In this sense, Allen's project feels closer to archaeology than traditional publishing – mining both the past and the future for paths not (yet) taken.

"Erratum emerges from the idea that writing still matters, not as something to fetishize – books are, after all, such a fetish of the educated person – but as a set of practices for thinking differently about the world and creating a disturbance within it," he said.

"I see this as a task as a challenge, as an ongoing experiment with forms and approaches that are, in one way or another, in dialogue with a world they refuse."

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