Backings Old and New

First, CASTALIA JUNIOR CLASSICS backers will be pleased to know that a) ebook editions 4, 5, and 6 are now available on the Arkhaven store and can be downloaded at no charge with the same coupon that was utilized for books 1, 2, and 3. If you don’t have the code, or misplaced it in the interim, we’ll be sending out an email this weekend.

Second, CASTALIA JUNIOR CLASSICS 1-6 leather editions will be bound in August. They will ship in late August/early September. If we have any extra sets, we will make them available in that time frame. And if you’re one of the five goatskin buyers, we’ll need to get your color selected this weekend, so please send an email to confirm that you still want one.

Third, for Lodi fans, Alex Macris is running a crowdfund for BY THIS AXE: The Cyclopedia of Dwarven Civilization. In this tome you will find the secrets of the great and proud race of dwarves, compiled, codified, and curated for use in your favorite old-school fantasy role-playing game.

And fourth, Arkhaven’s Jon Del Arroz is running a crowdfund for OVERMIND, a science fiction graphic novel. Ayla Rin, Agent of Terra Prime has uncovered a plot against the Imperium! On a faraway colony planet, the governor is linking his populace into an ethernet where they are being mind-controlled by a rogue artificial intelligence that seeks galactic domination! Only Alya Rin can stop this nefarious plot and save humanity as we know it.


Of Books and Things

ITEM: There are 4 signed DEATH MASK editions left in stock.

ITEM: The current Castalia Library book is THE PROMETHEAN by Owen Stanley. It is designed to be a set with THE MISSIONARIES, both 1st and 2nd editions.

ITEM: The previous coupon will work with the JUNIOR CLASSICS 4-6 downloads when they go up on the site tomorrow. We’ll also email a download link to a zip file of all three to backers in order to maximize the hit rate.

ITEM: HYPERGAMOUSE will now run twice a week. We anticipate a hardcover edition next spring.


Three Steps Forward

Some days, it feels like one step forward, two steps back. But today is a Three Steps Forward day, as all of the machines less the final two are arriving at the Bindery. We’ll put up some pictures on SG tomorrow, and I’ll try to show some on the Darkstream too.

Loading the truck in England.

It’s going to take a month or three before the Bindery is fully operational, as we need to make some modifications to the location in order to ensure everything is in line with the local codes, train everybody in, then assemble practice books until we meet our quality standards, but today marks the most significant step in the process since the subscribers made the whole thing possible by purchasing Bindery Editions of THE ILIAD and THE ODYSSEY.

As an added bonus, here are the designs for POLITICS and ETHICS covers. As you can see, they will make handsome companions for the recently sold-out RHETORIC, although I’m not entirely certain about the central figure for ETHICS, so it’s possible that cover may change somewhat. But the spines are settled and they are going to look spectacular on the shelves as a three-volume set.


Second Editions

Castalia Library is presently offering its subscribers first shot at THE BLACK SWAN by NN Taleb. We’re also planning to release second editions of the sold-out THE MISSIONARIES and MEDITATIONS, both of which will be very similar to the first editions, although they will be clearly denoted as second editions and will feature different color leathers in order to clearly distinguish the different editions.

Please drop a note on SG or to my email if you are interested in either second edition, as well as if you are interested in the Library or Libraria versions as we will offer second editions of both. We’re asking the subscribers now because we need to decide the size of the print runs for both second editions. We expect that these print runs will be smaller than the initial print runs, but it’s theoretically possible they will be larger, depending upon the demand.

Please note that we are not taking any orders for them yet; next month will be the soonest that we will do so.

While we’re on the subject of sold-out first editions, I should probably mention that RHETORIC is down to the last five copies in stock, for those who are interested in obtaining one before it sells out also sold out. However, we won’t contemplate a second edition of it until we see how ETHICS and POLITICS do.



The 16th book in the Castalia Library subscription (May-June) is ANTIFRAGILE, by bestselling author Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It’s arguably Taleb’s most important book, given the challenges presented in this day and age, and I consider it to be an absolutely essential read.

Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.

NN Taleb

If you are a May-June subscriber, you will receive ANTIFRAGILE when it is produced. If you wish to buy a copy but do not have a subscription, you will have to either a) subscribe or b) wait until the books are bound and the unsold portion of the print run goes on sale. A limited print run of 900 Library and 100 Libraria editions of ANTIFRAGILE will be bound.

Also, for the first time, Castalia House is offering an individual deluxe, leather-bound edition as part of the Castalia Library that is not included in the Library subscription. This is Taleb’s first bestseller, THE BLACK SWAN, which is available at the subscription price for subscribers using the subscription discount code. Please note that the image on the page is merely a placeholder, as we have not yet designed the cover or the spine of the Library edition. A Libraria edition is also available.

A limited print run of 900 Library and 100 Libraria editions of THE BLACK SWAN will be bound. Both books will be part of a four-volume deluxe INCERTO collection.


RHETORIC by Castalia Library

Castalia vs Franklin: A Tale of Two Libraries

RHETORIC by Aristlotle is now available from Castalia Library in both Castalia Library and Libraria Castalia editions. It’s one of our fastest-selling books, as we’d already be sold out if we hadn’t boosted the print run to 850. There are currently just 93 79 53 30 copies left in stock. In addition to featuring our most Franklinesque spine – which you can see above in between SUMMA ELVETICA and HEIDI on the left – it also features a preface by yours truly.

Preface to Rhetoric

Aristotle’s Rhetoric is one of the most useful and important analyses of human communication ever written. It is also one of the great philosopher’s least appreciated works, as it is easily mistaken for a mere technical breakdown of the various forms of persuasion rather than what it truly is, a brilliant conceptual guide to understanding and anticipating human behavior.

While a considerable portion of the text is devoted to the mechanics of the syllogism and the enthymeme, as well as the presentation of the inevitable lists which Aristotle characteristically constructs, by far the most important element of this little book is the philosopher’s division of humanity into two fundamental classes: those who are capable of learning through information and those who are not.

This is such an important distinction that it is remarkable for its complete absence from the schools and universities today. The distinction calls into question everything from modern pedagogical systems to personal conversations while simultaneously explaining the mystery that has confounded every intelligent individual who has ever tried, and failed, to explain the obvious to another person.

Indeed, it is comforting to have one’s long-held suspicions about the intrinsic limitations of one’s fellow man confirmed so comprehensively. More importantly, Aristotle’s rhetorical framework provides those who understand and apply it the ability to effectively communicate to the full spectrum of humanity, in effect permitting the reader to transcend his natural psycho-linguistic instincts and attain true intellectual polylingualism.

It must be admitted that Rhetoric would be considerably more accessible if the terminology utilized was a little more expansive and a little less imitated. Even though his definition makes sense when the relevant terms are analyzed in detail, it is not exactly conducive to comprehension for Aristotle to define the two subsets of rhetoric to be dialectic and rhetoric, therein requiring a casual distinction between rhetoric and rhetoric-rhetoric, or capital-R Rhetoric and lowercase-r rhetoric. Adding to the confusion is the fact that both Hegel and Marx subsequently attempted to redefine the term dialectic, although there is precious little in common between Aristotelian dialectic, Hegelian dialectic, Marxian dialectic, and the current dictionary term.

However, once the reader grasps that in this context, Rhetoric simply means persuasion, which is divided into a) fact-and-reason based persuasion, or dialectic, and b) emotion-based persuasion, or rhetoric, the basic framework becomes clear. The philosopher explains that while some people can be persuaded by information and logical demonstrations, people are most readily persuaded by emotional manipulation. Moreover, some people can only be persuaded by emotional manipulation, as Aristotle observes in what may be the most important sentence in the book.

Before some audiences not even the possession of the exactest knowledge will make it easy for what we say to produce conviction. For argument based on knowledge implies instruction, and there are people whom one cannot instruct.

What Aristotle is observing is that some of those who are limited to rhetoric are immune to dialectic. Such individuals cannot be swayed by facts or reason, no matter how exact the knowledge provided, no matter how impeccable the logic presented. Those who are immune to dialectic can only be reached through rhetoric, which is to say by manipulation that plays upon their emotions more effectively than whatever feelings inspired them to be convicted of their current beliefs.

While this manipulation may strike some readers as unethical, it is justified by necessity, as the duty of rhetoric requires addressing those “who cannot take in at a glance a complicated argument, or follow a long chain of reasoning.” While the enthymeme resembles the logical syllogism, it is not, in fact, logic, and the truths that it proves are only apparent truths.

Which, of course, is another way of saying that they are literal untruths.

This is why people whose natural preferences incline toward dialectic have a strong tendency to regard rhetoric as being fundamentally dishonest, and to consider the emotional manipulation involved in utilizing rhetoric to be intrinsically wrong. This distaste for rhetoric among those capable of utilizing dialectic is common, but it is nevertheless false. First, because even the most logically correct dialectic can be entirely false if the premises upon which the syllogisms are constructed are false. Second, because the more that the rhetoric incorporates and points toward the truth, the more effective it tends to be.

Neither dialectic nor rhetoric are inherently true or false; the very attempt to distinguish them in this manner is to make a category error. It might help to think of them as languages; just as one could not reasonably describe English as honest while insisting that German is deceptive and morally wrong, one should not assign morality to either of the two subsets of Rhetoric.

It is more correct, more practical, and more effective to apply the principle of utilizing the form of communication best understood by the listener. Just as one would not speak Chinese to an individual who only understands English, one should not rely upon rhetoric when speaking to a dialectic-speaker, or expect a rhetoric-speaker to be persuaded by dialectical arguments.

Aristotle himself believed it was vital for a man to be able to employ both arts, not so much for the purposes of persuasion, but rather, to avoid being deceived.

We must be able to employ persuasion, just as strict reasoning can be employed, on opposite sides of a question, not in order that we may in practice employ it in both ways (for we must not make people believe what is wrong), but in order that we may see clearly what the facts are, and that, if another man argues unfairly, we on our part may be able to confute him. No other of the arts draws opposite conclusions: dialectic and rhetoric alone do this. Both these arts draw opposite conclusions impartially. Nevertheless, the underlying facts do not lend themselves equally well to the contrary views. No; things that are true and things that are better are, by their nature, practically always easier to prove and easier to believe in.

Aristotle’s Rhetoric is every bit as useful and valid today as it was when it was first written more than 2,300 years ago. It is less a work of philosophy than a treasure chest of practical information for the individual who seeks to pursue the Good, the Beautiful, and the True.


The Minarian Legends

The Minarian Legends represent the collected stories about the many great kingdoms and celebrated heroes of Minaria, a continent of epic adventure. In these pages are presented the histories of the many kingdoms, heroes, and tribes that comprise a fantasy world full of merciless war, powerful magic, and intrepid adventure, the world of the classic 1979 TSR wargame, Divine Right.

The ancient tomes of the Minarian past have been mined to provide readers with the backstory of many kingdoms and heroes of the world of Divine Right. Among the latter are royalty, thieves, warriors, priests, adventurers, treasure hunters, werewolves, dragons, assassins, conquerors, wizards, rogues, barbarians, and pirates.

This comprehensive edition of Minarian legends offers the largest and most expanded collection of Minarian tales ever told, many of which are presented here for the first time by author Glenn Rahman, the designer of Divine Right.

Now available from Castalia House at Castalia Direct and Barnes and Noble, among other places.


The Monks of the Next Dark Age

John Derbyshire laments the death of the book:

Some years ago New Yorker magazine ran a cover picture of a guy sitting in an armchair working a laptop, with behind him a whole wall full of books. Every one of the books had, on its spine, a little face drawn. The faces were sad, angry, or plaintive.

That came to mind this month when I heard that Book Revue, my village’s independent bookstore, was closing. In their last week, the week of September 6th, they marked down all of their huge inventory. I went in to pick up some bargains, but for some reason felt no urge to buy and left empty-handed.

The following Tuesday, when I passed by, they had already cleared out the whole place. The empty shelves were a melancholy sight.

When we settled here thirty years ago the village had Book Revue and two second-hand bookstores, with a couple of the big chain retailers in nearby shopping centers. Now the nearest place to buy a book, or just browse, is in the mega-mall fifteen miles away. At any rate, there was a Barnes & Noble there when I last went, a couple of years ago …

“Oh, people just buy their books online—lots of books!” That’s what you hear if you raise the topic. I call it whistling through the graveyard, and think of that New Yorker cover. Books are dying a slow death, going the way that cuneiform on clay tablets went when papyrus came up.

It’s geezerish to grumble about it, and anyway futile. History stumbles on, and the old gives way to the new. For someone of my generation, though, for whom books have been a solace and a delight from childhood onward, it is sad, sad.

I feel exactly the opposite way. When I recall my childhood library filled with ephemeral paperbacks, and contrast that with the glorious image of my office library filled with beautiful leatherbound books by Franklin Library, Easton, and, of course, Castalia Library, I feel encouraged and restored.

Anyhow, you’ll definitely want to subscribe just so you can get the Landmark Thucydides at what will almost certainly be a break-even price from us. It’s going to be an incredible edition, unquestionably the best ever published of the 2,000-year-old book, but due to the unusually large width required for the maps and footnotes, it is going to be even more expensive to produce than the Plutarchs were. But nevertheless, it will be a subscription book because we want our subscribers to know that we appreciate them and want them to have the best books we produce.

In any event, the book will not die any century soon. It is considerably more likely that the lights will go out and the ebook will disappear, quite possibly before the end of the 21st century. We are the monks of the next literary Dark Age.

So don’t be sad, sub-scribe.


Libraria Castalia in the wild


It’s interesting to observe how the real 22k gold is actually less shiny than the gilding used on the Library editions. We’re also learning that the goatskin dyes tend to turn out a little more subdued than the cowhide dyes; we’d expected the midnight blue of AWAKE to be a little darker. But regardless, the results have exceeded our original expectations.
There is still time to subscribe for Plutarch; the November/December book will be Summa Elvetica. We’ve decided that all the Selenoth books will feature the same blue for the Library and very dark green for Libraria.

Remember, lust is a sin


This first Libraria Castalia book is now being belatedly bound in fine Italian goatskin. And yes, that is all genuine 22k gold, it’s not just on the spine. The books are going to look absolutely spectacular and they are already sold out. However, there are still some copies of AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND and THE DIVINE COMEDY available. They retail for $500, but subscribers can buy one copy each at the subscription price. Both Libraria editions will also be bound soon, along with the Library edition of the Dante.

We’re running a little late on the first three Junior Classics hardcovers, so they won’t ship before the end of this month but they will be out in plenty of time for Christmas.