Text Publishing has ensured that many of Australia’s greatest literary works – by both living and dead authors – will reach new readers for generations.
It began with an old-fashioned idea: ‘To make great books available at a highly affordable price,’ says Text Publishing. ‘The launch generated debate about our neglect of our literary heritage, but it also encouraged the wide reading of authors ranging from Watkin Tench to Henry Handel Richardson, from Barbara Baynton to Sumner Locke Elliott.’
The Text Classics series was launched with thirty titles in 2012. ‘Since we launched the series, the Text Classics have enabled thousands of readers to discover the literature of their own country,’ says Michael Heyward, publisher at Text. ‘With their now familiar yellow livery, each title unmistakeable in W. H. Chong superb series design, these books have reclaimed their essential place in our literary history.’
Text continues to add titles to the list that features celebrated writers from Australia and New Zealand, many of them known and some who have fallen into obscurity despite the merit of their works. The series means that both domestic and international readers can discover great authors who they could have easily missed. Recent additions to the Text classics include Elizabeth Harrower, Kenneth Cook, Kenneth Mackenzie, David Ballantyne, Amy Witting and Madeleine St John.
More than 170,000 copies of Text Classics titles have been sold around the world. The bestselling Text Classic so far is Elizabeth Harrower’s The Watch Tower, with an introduction by Joan London, with sales currently nearing 20,000.
To mark the celebration of Text Classics, another long out-of-print and forgotten novel has been published: The Dyehouse by Mena Calthorpe, first published in 1961. This gem was ‘discovered’ by writer Fiona McFarlane, (The Night Guest, The High Places) at a second-hand bookstore and she has written the introduction. Now this masterly portrait of postwar Australia, when work was being radically transformed by new industrial technologies, will not be lost and can be appreciated by new readers. Despite its publication date it’s a timely book about work and sexual politics that has timeless appeal.
‘The Dyehouse is an extraordinary book – a true ensemble novel, written with astonishing control and animated by compassionate intelligence,’ says McFarlane. ‘With its indelible Sydney setting, it deserves – more than deserves – to take its place among the great Australian novels about work, and to be celebrated as the 100th Text Classic.’
Poet and author Peter Rose, and editor of the Australian Book Review, who has a book on the list, The Rose Boys, told the Courier Mail: “It has introduced us all to writers we didn’t know about,” he says. ‘For me, a book such as Kenneth Mackenzie’s The Young Desire It was a revelation. If this project introduces you to just one classic that you didn’t know about, it has done its job.’
Text is marking the publication of its 100th Classic with events throughout the country and writers’ festivals. In addition there’s a stunning set of 100 Text Classics Postcards featuring the distinctive and beautiful W.H Chong designs, as well as a free iconic yellow tote bag featuring the inscription ‘I couldn’t ever get bored with reading’ (quoting Amy Witting’s I for Isobel) when customers buy Text Classics from participating bookshops.
Don’t miss our live event with Text’s publisher Michael Heyward Thursday 29 September at 11.30am to find out more about Text Classics.
To purchase a copy of the 100th Text Classic, The Dyehouse, click here.
To find out more about Text Classics, visit the Text Publishing website here.