We know it as the Gulf of California, but in 1940 it was called the Sea of Cortez. In that year, the novelist John Steinbeck and marine biologist Ed Ricketts traveled there to research a book project on the region’s ecology. They sailed to the area in a vessel called the Western Flyer. Their collaboration resulted in a book titled Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research, which was comprised of a narrative log and a 328-page catalogue of marine life.
Now the San Francisco art book publisher Arion Press has published the book in a letterpress “hybrid” edition. The handcrafted, fine press edition incorporates reclaimed wood from the Western Flyer and illustrations by the renowned wood engraver Richard Wagener, as well as an original map and endpapers by artist Martin Machado. The edition is limited to 250 copies in three binding options. The Limited Edition, is “bound in striated pearlescent cloth with deep red coral paper sides imprinted with a starfish motif derived from Wagener,” according to the prospectus. It retails for $2,200. A limited number of Western Flyer prints are also available.