French publisher Pierre Marchand died of cancer on April 4, at the age of 62. An obituary appeared in the April 22 issue of PW.Friends and colleagues pay tribute to an innovative publisher.
Hedwige Pasquet and Christine BakerGallimard Jeunesse
For Pierre Marchand, life was one and indivisible, not "professional" and "personal." Working with him reflected this. His family included those who were lucky enough to work for him. We have both had the privilege to be part of this extended family, to work daily with him at Gallimard since the beginning.
Pierre saw himself as, and was, a captain with his mates on a ship riding fierce seas. He liked to upset and destroy, in order to build again. He followed his instinct, his intuition, his vision. One step ahead of his teams, of his rivals, of the market—by osmosis he would absorb what he needed from them all.
With his formidable sponge-like memory, he could retain everything he read, heard, saw: recite word-perfect volumes of poetry, learn a foreign language (English!) in middle age just by sitting at meetings, draw a design or a layout that had subliminally caught his eye months earlier.
He couldn't suffer an error of visual taste or the sin of banality, in a color, a proportion, a line... his eye was truly laser sharp. He had to mold, to control: no project was ever less than a challenge; the ambition of the 18th-century French encyclopedists was underlying every idea.
Pierre gave French publishing an international dimension. Everything he created might have been deemed at first "too sophisticated," "too French" or the wrong format, but he never had any doubts that his visual language was in fact perfectly international.
He couldn't wait to get to the ABA, even if all we had for a booth in those early days was a humble small table in a remote corner. Since then, all his main creations have been adopted by the greatest American publishers, and this gave him some of the most undiluted reassurance and pride he ever felt.
Our design studio, built like a sea-liner deck from his own plans, was the hub of his enterprise; to see him charge from table to table among designers, editors, illustrators was like observing a pure physical phenomenon of electric conduction.
To live, he needed to create, and to create, he needed friends and foes, storms and the sea, poetry and sailor songs, red wine, book fairs, the smell of ink and the feel of paper, an endless supply of notebooks, laughter and anger, loyalty and love, and beautiful publishing houses to work in.
Faithful to himself to the end, it was with courage, vigor, speed and panache that he said good-bye to all this on April 4, 2002. He had spent the last of his strength shaping up books, cajoling authors, phoning friends, scheming deals at his desk at Hachette until four weeks before he died, on the eve of what would have been his 33rd Bologna Book Fair, and 30 years to the day after he had arrived with a children's book project contract on the doorstep of Gallimard.
If there was a single catalyst that triggered the rapid expansion of DK in the late 1980s, it was a phone call from Pierre Marchand, in which he said that he admired our style of overhead photography and wanted to work with us to create a new series of information books for the young.
At first we struggled to grasp what his vision encompassed. The concept for what became the Eyewitness series was revolutionary. We had no idea whether it would work; certainly the market reaction to prototype pages was puzzled, if not downright skeptical. But there was, throughout the year we spent in London and Paris developing the first titles, always an inner conviction that, whatever the markets were saying, we were involved in something that was, above all, interesting.
The combination of Pierre Marchand and Peter Kindersley was a potent one; while they struggled to share a common language, they completely shared the grammar of beautiful design. Thus the series became a joint venture in every respect and benefited from the virtues of both cultures—cool Anglo-Saxon photography was discreetly embellished with romantic Gallic drawings and engravings. It was Pierre's influence on the latter that humanized the books.
Once we had cracked it, there was no looking back. Forty-five million copies in 40 languages are the true legacy of Pierre Marchand's inspiration, and we will always be indebted to him.
It was always a stimulating experience to meet with him, to hear his input on embryo projects—he would suggest new ways of looking at things, constantly sketching and doodling on a pad to realize where his restless imagination was taking him. He seemed like a force of nature, very strong, very determined, very much in control, commanding respect and admiration. We will miss him very much.
Harry N. Abrams
In the spring of 1991 I attended the Bologna Book Fair and discovered Pierre Marchand's Découvertes series at the Gallimard stand. I began to negotiate for English language translation on the spot.
This series, which Abrams eventually called Discoveries and which we began to publish in the spring of 1992, was Pierre's invention. His imaginative combination of text and pictures in a magnificently produced series of paperback books was as innovative an idea as the invention of paperback books themselves. He inspired the best editors, picture researchers and designers at Gallimard to create a dazzling array of books, ranging in subject from art to zoology. He also led the way in the use of computers in design and creation of printed materials.
I remember meeting him for the first time, as, with eyes twinkling, bristling crew cut, jaunty bow tie, he proudly introduced me to his principal editors and staff. He explained, to someone who understood nothing at that time about computers (me), in clear and understandable words how this new technology would make possible the rapid design and creation of foreign language editions. I think he really reveled in what he had started.
Pierre was also a wonderful companion with whom to eat well and drink better. Because he did not speak English, I was forced to improve my rusty French, as we shared great meals in Paris and New York. I still remember a dinner at the home of Hedwige Pasquet, where my wife and I and Antoine Gallimard and Pierre enjoyed the hospitality of the Pasquet household, and drank to the future of Discoveries. I raise my glass to Pierre, and hope he has one, too.
Herbert R. Lottman
International Correspondent, PW
There was a time you could sneak a kid into the Bologna Book Fair and let some of the world's finest publishers baby-sit for you (if you remembered to pick up your offspring at the close of the business day). Early on, our little Jeremie decided that the Gallimard stand was where he should be. Naturally, his assiduity appealed to the publisher, who seemed to enjoy an exchange of views with his faithful reader.
By then, Pierre had launched a unique pocket encyclopedia series that didn't talk down to children. Pierre understood that children's minds could store up steam engines and agricultural implements as well as ghosts and fairies. It didn't take long before leading European publishers were translating whole swatches of these junior Discovery books. And in between Bologna fairs, Jeremie was giving his papa guided tours of museums of science and technology with useful commentary.
Children grow up, and catalogues expand. When Pierre showed me the dummy of the first volume of what was to become the young adult Discovery series—although he insisted that the books were designed for readers "from 12 to 80"—Jeremie was only a little younger than the minimum age for it, but of course a childhood bathed in the junior Discovery books smoothed his path.
With Discovery, and thanks to a fortuitous visit by Abrams prexy Paul Gottlieb to Bologna, Pierre Marchand's talent for attracting and then holding on to young readers won over another continent. Jeremie could have told you.
Pierre Marchand was always thinking about how the world connects, and how he could explain it, illuminate it and put it together creatively for his audience, either of children or adults.
For example, in his thinking about his Travel Guide to New York, he told me one time that New York was like Venice, surrounded by water with buildings rising up out of the water. This might seem far-fetched, but a few weeks ago in the New York Times, writing about New York's waterfront, an expert made the same comparison between New York and Venice.
Pierre's vision of the world was magical, and his enthusiasm and passion were at once very wise and childlike. He also built and led a talented team of editors and artists who will continue and even expand his achievements—perhaps his greatest legacy.
Pierre Marchand was the driving force behind an outstanding list of children's and illustrated books at Gallimard in Paris, and Andersen Press was privileged to be the most important contributor to his picture book program for over 20 years. The incredible number of nonfiction titles created by this team and their international success made Pierre one of the most influential people on the French publishing scene, and his flair and enthusiasm became well known all over the world. There are very few people in publishing that I came to know and respect as much as Pierre. I shall miss him, and was shocked and saddened by his untimely demise, which deprived French publishing of one of its brightest creative forces.
Over a long period, some 20 years, I suppose, I knew Pierre well and, I'm afraid to say, was nearly always too cautious in dealing with him. His enthusiasm and innovative approach to new generations of readers who viewed images and texts differently was pioneering and even established new standards. With nearly every series he offered to me during my Penguin years in London and New York, I tried to be coolly objective when he was passionately subjective. I was too often the under bidder and I'm only happy to say that before I left Penguin, I did manage to buy one series from him and Hedwige, which was not only successful but which continues today, proving that he was not only passionately subjective, but that he was also brilliant about the marketplace and way ahead of everybody else.
Someone like Pierre is rarely found: there are always doubters in abundance, but Pierre was never fazed by anyone's doubt, and he was proved right so often that in his young and aborted lifetime he was a legend almost from the start. He is not only missed now, but because he was unique, he will always be missed. Because we need him.