Publisher Q&A - Plethora

A Q&A interview with Peter Steffensen of Plethora – a hybrid publication combining a journal format with selected fine art prints, published by the design studio Plethora.

Portrait of Peter Steffensen

Courtesy of Plethora

What made you first want to start publishing books?

Books work as small vessels to gain knowledge and experiences, and my appreciation and devotion to the slow-paced medium sparked an eagerness within me to contribute to the publishing industry.

How important are ideas of collecting to the publishing industry?

I think they are extremely important! Without collecting inspiration and source material, you’re basically just publishing self-centred content from a limited perspective. This kind of published material of course also has a place in the publishing industry, but if we only had that kind of publishing, I’d be afraid that we would lack nuance and impact.

Most (if not all) publishers collect some sort of inspiration and source material. For us at Plethora, collecting is very important, especially because we’re always trying to push the bookmaking craft’s limits.

Because we work with artists and philosophic writers, we need to always be on the lookout for what’s possible in the world of bookmaking. We need to create the most optimal framework, in terms of printed matter, for their art.

Plethora Magazine, Issue 12

Courtesy of Plethora

Plethora Magazine Issue 12

Courtesy of Plethora

Are all books art objects? When does book making become an art form?

Are all books art objects? Are all images art? The book by itself is a medium, just as photography is a medium – but all photographs aren’t art, and all books aren’t art either. Just as there are very different purposes and genres for photography, the same is true when it comes to books – and that’s the beautiful thing about such a wide ranging medium. It allows you to experiment and merge genres, intentions and different purposes to create something new and exciting.

When does bookmaking become an art form?

The intention and purpose of the book decides whether it should be considered art or not.

For thousands of years books have been the main platform and medium for preserving and saving information and knowledge, traditionally containing text and images. I think because of this, we tend to think of books as a means of conveying information and knowledge in a traditional form.

Luckily, we also have a great tradition of bookmakers that push the medium and challenge the perception of what makes a book, a book. It all comes down to the intention behind the book. This decides whether it should be considered an art form or not.

However, no matter what you think of books it can’t be denied that bookmaking is a complex and beautiful craft that requires skills and dedication.

Søren Solkær, Black Sun

Courtesy of Plethora

Søren Solkær, Black Sun

Courtesy of Plethora

Do you think that books belong in museums? If so why, if not why not?

I will try not to repeat myself too much, but the matter of fact is that books are a medium, and how that medium is being used determines how and if each individual publication belongs in a museum or not. Some do, due to their historical value and some do, due to their innovative and artistic approach or political impact. But just as all books aren’t art, not all books belong in a museum, some are simply just better suited for the bookshelf at home.

Have there been particular books that had a big impact on you in terms of the way you approach book-making/publishing?

Karl Blossfeldt’s ‘Urformen der Kunst’, first edition has been a great inspiration for materialisation and design.

Gaston Bachelard’s ‘The poetics of space’ has been a great inspiration for conceptualisation.

Tilda Bay Kristoffersen, Æon

Courtesy of Plethora

Tilda Bay Kristoffersen, Æon

Courtesy of Plethora

Do you collect books? What sort of books interest you most?

Yes, I do, and I believe that if you don’t collect books that’s an error, no matter who you are and what you concern yourself with.

I collect all sorts of books!

Because I work in the border area of publishing and art, there are many kinds of books that grasps my attention. Some are for more “academic” purposes, maybe the book is produced in a very innovative way, maybe the layout is doing something I haven’t seen before, maybe the print technique is otherworldly, or maybe I just find the book inspiring and beautiful in some way.

But I do also collect books for more personal reasons. I do like a good story, or a poetic and philosophic journey. I like to be politically or intellectually challenged, and for all these listed interests I prefer the medium of the book. The reason why? I’m glad you asked!

Books are multi-layered and multifaceted which allow the reader to dwell and immerse themselves in information, knowledge, perspective, ideas and thoughts. It’s a medium that by definition is somewhat related to a time capsule. You are always required to devote time and effort to be able to grasp the full experience of any kind of book, and that usually results in a more careful and nuanced way of gaining new information and new perspectives.

Københavns Møbelsnedkeri

Courtesy of Københavns Møbelsnedkeri and Plethora

Copies of Plethora Magazine

Courtesy of Plethora