Inculte is a French independent publisher created by a group of up-and-coming young writers. All of them had already worked with some of France’s largest publishing companies, but they had a desire to create something new and unique. Since 2004, the company has published a quarterly review, a collection of monographs, and many hardcover novels and essays. All of the printed matter for Inculte is well-crafted, using materials, processes, and inks that are specially selected for the creation of a wonderful object.
From the book “Come and Eat with Me: The Passion of Yann Legendre”
Jérôme Schmidt, Editorial Director, Inculte Publishing, Paris
In 2004, if you had asked Yann Legendre what he couldn’t live without, he would have answered: books and oysters. True to his nature, he would have said he preferred American books and French oysters as the right fit—a great mix of national treasures. Of course, other pleasures in life would have jumped to his mind as well, such as sitting at a terrace of a French café on a sunny afternoon, drawing in his sketchbooks, strolling beneath Chicago’s most awe-inspiring towers, listening to Steve Coleman, and dreaming of a world full of brunettes. All in all, Yann and I had quite a bit in common—enough to lead us to a phenomenal working relationship and even a very strong friendship. Yet, there was one big problem for me in 2004: even though Yann and I happened to live just a few streets away and even though we had so much in common, we didn’t even know each other’s name.
I suppose, therefore, that it should not be surprising that our common interests brought us together on the same path, and that interest began with books. One day, Yann, a great fan of literature, bought an issue of a literary and philosophical review I publish, entitled Inculte, and sent me a “love” email, which is pretty extraordinary for a guy you’ve never met. But as e-love was hip at that time, we decided to meet and chat the following day to discuss the review. Pastas, words, images, and collaboration just happened to be on the menu that day. And so began many more enjoyable meals, meetings, good times, and successes.
Within a matter of weeks, Yann became extremely involved in my publishing company. He started sending wonderful black and white thematic drawings for the novels the group was creating. We spent quite a bit of time chatting and challenging each other’s ideas—a pleasure when people are so passionate about what they do. What was especially striking in all his drawings, and what almost always won me over, was his love of literature. I have worked with many talented designers, but none of them had such a love of books and of literature. Just say names like Powers, Sorrentino, Danielewski, Pynchon or Thompson in the presence of Yann, and a whole world opens in his eyes. Each of his drawings for these authors represented worlds: those of writers he compulsively reads and forever respects.
Time moves on and friendship ultimately grows. Yann’s horizons had opened and he found himself embarking on a new adventure, much to the sadness of his French colleagues but to the delight of his American counterparts. Yann had found a way to combine virtually all of his passions (American books, Chicago, and a wonderful brunette). As he made the leap to Chicago, I in turn too made a leap (albeit a shorter one) and decided to take over his design studio in Paris and run Inculte out of his former office, a huge space right next to the Bastille.
Distance turned out not to be a problem for us. Yann has continued to support the Inculte books, and his experience in Chicago has inspired him to have even more original ideas. As Yann settled in to Chicago, I asked him to think about the design of a new book collection I wanted to launch, consisting of precious small books filled with unreleased texts of the most interesting French philosophers. The collection was intended to consist of about 20 books, each of them dedicated to the work of writers or thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Georges Perec, etc. In about a week’s time, Yann came back to me with a rich collection of ideas: most of them more than brilliant. Yann brought to me some alphabet-like covers, made of embossed letters, metallic coated inks, and filled with perfectly balanced pages full of different type styles. I fell in love with the idea… and with the books to come, of course. Since that time, for every book or collection I want to create, I give a phone call to Yann or drop him an email. He still has these brilliant ideas that drive me mad. Because, like me, he wants the books to be objects of art as well as real texts to be read—objects that you respect both formally and intellectually. His design is all about geography and weather. He creates “reader-scapes,” building invisible cities around the text, providing a new point of view on abstract content, enlightening each letter and consequently each reader. And what is a nice place without the perfect light?