Chapter 517 About that Top Secret Dante Project

Thanks for looking at the link to the Dante Catalogue for the past week or so. I mailed out many catalogues, prepped for and sold books at the San Francisco Antiquarian Book Fair (more on that tomorrow), returned home and left the next day for a short trip with Thoughtful Husband, Tom, and Huck, will return home again and then leave to attend (but not sell books at) the Los Angeles International Antiquarian Book Fair.

Needless to say, blogging may be light until next week.

Quite a while ago, I mentioned a top secret Dante project on which I was working. It wasn’t the catalogue. There was no way that could be a secret; I’d been working on it for close to three years.

No, this was a different project, one in which I was pleased to participate. Since one complaint I frequently hear from those in the business longer than I is that there are very few young book collectors, I have reached the conclusion that we booksellers have to seek customers outside of our traditional open shops, sell to people beyond the book fairs, and, yes, even to use technology that takes print catalogues to new levels in order to reach these potential young collectors and show them what is fun and meaningful about antiquarian books and building a collection of them.

Last year I mentioned that video game company Electronic Arts was working on a video game called Dante’s Inferno. The game adapts the story of Dante’s journey through Hell for a modern, game-playing audience, many of whom may not even have heard of Dante before.

I know someone who works at EA, and while visiting her for lunch one day I was able to visit the team who worked on the Dante’s Inferno game and to talk to the game’s Executive Producer, Jonathan Knight. In order to explain my interest in Dante, I told him about the Dante catalogue I’d worked on for the past couple of years and a little bit about antiquarian books. I even let him see a draft copy of the catalogue.

He told me all about the game, the way it was designed, how the adaptation made changes from Dante’s book and why it did so. It was a fascinating afternoon.

I thanked him for the visit and went home, happy that I had been able to see the artwork for the game and to learn a little bit about how video games are made.

Several months later, in September, I received a phone call from Electronic Arts. They were making a short documentary film called Dante in History to add to the game disk as a bonus feature. They wanted to know whether I would be willing to speak on camera about the various ways Dante and his work have been portrayed in the seven centuries since The Divine Comedy was first published. They also wanted to know if they could use some of my books in the film.

I nearly dropped the phone in my excitement. Here was a way to reach a new audience — video gamers — and to be able to tell them a little about antiquarian books by showing them the books and how they influenced the game!

Though I know that not every video game player will watch the short film or suddenly become book collectors, maybe a few will.

I can’t help thinking this way: That such an endeavor is worthwhile even if it persuades only a few people. It’s the former teacher in me.

I spent one full day at the EA offices, helping the director photograph and film some of the books in my collection and answering questions on camera. I only appear in a very small part of the very short film, but a few of the books from my catalogue and images from those books made it into the final cut. I am not sure, but I think the film only comes with a special collector edition of the video game. I promised not to blog about this until the game was released to the public, so I am happy to finally tell you about it.

Here’s an ad that EA showed at the Superbowl advertising the Dante’s Inferno video game, which was released for sale today.

I’ve no idea what Dante would think, but I hope he’d be pleased to know he and his work are still relevant in 2010, seven hundred years later.

See you in the stacks!


Filed under Catalogues

5 responses to “Chapter 517 About that Top Secret Dante Project

  1. Great work! You never know how, where, or when you’ll reach someone and ignite that book spark. Got your catalog yesterday and have had fun looking through it. Very nice–well done!

  2. Thanks! So glad you like the catalogue.

  3. This is great, just the sort of approach booksellers should take, embracing new technologies, trying to connect with the next generations. Love the catalogue. Doesn’t look out of place on my shelf next to Quaritch, Shapero, Rulon-Miller. You must be proud. All the best.

  4. Thank you, Henry. I am touched that you would include my catalogue in such prestigious company!

  5. Pingback: Chapter 595 Happy Thanksgiving 2010 « Book Hunter’s Holiday

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