Announcing "Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge": A Fine Press Edition of Works by Borges and Foucault

We are delighted to announce a new collaboration: a celebration of Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges and his fictitious, fantastical encyclopedia, Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge. Artist Kain White will create 14 linocut and woodcut illustrations for an accordion-style book, letterpress printed by R.I. Sutton of The Harebrained Press. A companion volume – created by Tristan Reader of Ampersand Book Studio – will feature the originating essay by Borges and the famous response to it by philosopher Michel Foucault. The set will be beautifully packaged in a solander box. We will launch our collaboration as a Kickstarter campaign in March, 2024.

In 1942, intellectual giant Jorge Luis Borges presented readers with an “ancient” taxonomy from “a certain Chinese encyclopedia entitled Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge.” With his sharp wit and economy of language, Borges challenges everything we think we know about how the world is organized:


On those remote pages it is written that animals are divided into (a) those that belong to the Emperor, (b) embalmed ones, (c) those that are trained, (d) suckling pigs, (e) mermaids, (f) fabulous ones, (g) stray dogs, (h) those that are included in this classification, (i) those that tremble as if they were mad, (j) innumerable ones, (k) those drawn with a very fine camel’s hair brush,  (l) others, (m) those that have just broken a flower vase, (n) those that resemble flies from a distance.


Humans like to classify, categorize, and put disparate things into neat boxes. Borges reveals how all such classifications are arbitrary and artificial. In doing so, he challenges the course of intellectual history, social science, and art. Among other impacts, Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge served as the inspiration for Michel Foucault’s seminal book, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, which begins,


This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought – our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography – breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things.

This fine press edition will feature two volumes. The first, the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge itself, will be an accordion-style book featuring the 14 realms of the animal kingdom designed, hand-typeset, letterpress printed, and hand-bound by R.I. Sutton at The Harebrained Press. Each category will feature new linocut and woodcut illustrations by artist Kain White, capturing the surrealism and humor of the taxonomy.


A companion volume will include the original Borges essay in which the taxonomy appeared, “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins,” and the preface to Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. Foucault teases out the implications of Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge in order to understand how the power of categorization is one of the most fundamental forms of social and political control. This letterpress-printed volume of essays – and the solander box to house the two books – will be designed, letterpress printed, and hand-crafted by Tristan Reader of Ampersand Book Studio.


Production will be limited to 250 numbered copies and 27 lettered copies.

Ampersand Book Studio is dedicated to telling diverse stories artfully. Offering hand-crafted limited and special editions of various genres – from legends of Indigenous peoples for use by their communities to historical fiction in period-accurate bindings – each book is a passion project of Tristan Reader of Tucson, Arizona.

The Harebrained Press is a print studio nestled among the eucalyptus trees in country Victoria, Australia. Writer and book artist R.I. Sutton creates editions of quality and uniqueness using the traditional bookmaking techniques of hand-typesetting, letterpress, paper marbling, and binding.


Kain White is an Australian painter, drawer and printmaker. He finds inspiration in a wide variety of sources, from the Renaissance masters through to 1950s space illustration. Using symbolism, narrative, and unconventional perspective, White seeks to displace his viewers from materialist paradigms and to reflect on non-physical realities and worlds of meaning.

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