Picture book imprint minedition, absent from the North American market since 2009, returns this month with eight titles that comprise its relaunch list. The line is published by Hong Kong-based Michael Neugebauer Publishing Ltd., named after its Austrian founder and publisher, who also edits and designs minedition books. The list encompasses board books, jacketed hardcovers, and paper-over-board picture books, all design- and illustration-focused. IPG is the North American distributor for the books, editions of which are also available in the British, European, and Asian markets.

Neugebauer and his upscale picture books have had a rather peripatetic publishing history in the United States. In the early 1980s he founded Picture Book Studio, which he sold to Alphabet Press, the company’s distributor, in the late 1980s. (Simon & Schuster later acquired Picture Book Studio, in 1994.) Beginning in 1993, Neugebauer had an eponymous imprint for 10 years with NorthSouth Books.

When he ended his relationship with that house, Neugebauer established a partnership with Penguin USA, which began issuing books under the minedition name (derived from the first two letters of Neugebauer’s first and last names) in 2004. “Doug Whiteman at Penguin was very supportive of my books,” said Neugebauer. “We came up with the name ‘minedition’ since the people at Penguin thought my last name would be hard for consumers to pronounce.” Neugebauer’s association with Penguin lasted for five years.

After searching for what he called “a new North American home for minedition, to continue what Penguin had successfully started,” Neugebauer decided to publish the imprint on his own. He consulted with his longtime friend Rick Richter, former president of Simon & Schuster’s children’s division and now CEO of Ruckus Media Group, whom Neugebauer had hired in the early 1980s at Picture Book Studio.

Richter put Neugebauer in touch with Deborah Sloan, head of marketing firm Deborah Sloan & Company. “Everything started to go smoothly, and in the right direction, once I connected with Deborah,” said Neugebauer. “She advised me to go with a smaller distributor, and it was the right decision. The people at IPG are just wonderful and were thrilled with our books when we presented them.”

Welcoming a New Era

An international roster of authors and illustrators highlight minedition’s fall list: We Love Each Other by Yusuke Yonezu; Aesop’s Fables, illustrated by Ayano Imai; Tales from the Brothers Grimm, selected and illustrated by Hans Christian Andersen Award-winner Lisbeth Zwerger, translated by Anthea Bell; Santa Claus: All About Me, compiled by John and Juliette Atkinson; The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, illustrated by Sonja Danowski; The Message of the Birds by Kate Westerlund, illustrated by Feridun Oral; Will You Still Love Me If…? by Catherine Leblanc, illustrated by Eve Tharlet; and Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm, illustrated by Sybille Schenker.

Twelve picture books are slated for minedition’s spring 2014 list, and Neugebauer anticipates that the line will release a total of 20-25 titles a year. “Since we haven’t published in North America for four years, we have a backlog of titles that have already been published in our international markets, which enables us to now bring out the strongest of our titles in this market,” he said. “Starting in fall 2014, we will begin publishing books simultaneously in the North American and international markets.”

The tag line on miniedition’s marketing materials – “Beautifully crafted picture books that open the door to the world” – encapsulates Neugebauer’s publishing philosophy. “When children are exposed to exceptional books, they can develop much more than just a deeper appreciation of word and art,” he said. “Such books can foster understanding and a greater appreciation of the multicultural world in which we live.”

For his devotion to high-quality design and book production, as well as to fonts and calligraphy, Neugebauer owes much to his father, renowned calligrapher Friedrich Neugebauer, whose fonts the publisher has used in some minedition releases.

“My father, who died eight years ago at the age of 94, absolutely was a big influence on me,” he said. “When I was young, I wasn’t happy that he made me work so hard – at a printing house during summer vacations, and when I studied under him for five years at the Academy of Arts in Linz, in Upper Austria, where he was a professor of calligraphy and book design. Now I realize that I owe everything to him, and I appreciate what a treasured heritage he left behind.”