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A Brief History of Barbary Press
by Martin Davies


What happens when two starry-eyed foreigners (Davies & Derville) meet for coffee outside the Hotel Montesol one morning to discuss the hackneyed dream of doing something about the real Ibiza? The year was 1999, and with millennium fever hovering over Vara de Rey, the dream soon took on a life of its own, becoming reality in little over a year. The resulting photographic anthology, Ibiza: A Hundred Years of Light and Shade (May 2000), with some of the biggest names in literature as well as 'light painting', arrived just in time for the White Island's big twentieth. Many thanks to Gráficas Pitiusas who helped give form to the mad dream, and to our many loyal supporters far and wide.


The first book was published by Ediciones El Faro (Lighthouse Editions), Philippe Derville's poster series featuring a dozen black-and-white images. But when the present writer took over sole copyright in July 2003, a new name was required for future projects. One blustery Somerset evening, with a fine malt to help along the creative juices and Ibiza 's emblematic cactus in mind, he suggested 'Barbary Fig Press' to his sister-in-law (a fellow Liverpudlian), also the producer of a Radio 4 books programme. "Why not call it 'Barbary Press'?" came the reply.


Our logo, the lateen-rigged xebec (pronounced 'shebec'), was the fighting ship of both Barbary pirates and Ibizan corsairs, and reflects the close ties between the Pityuses and the Berber lands further south. The vessel played a vital role in Ibiza's defence with its triangular sails allowing it to sail extremely close to the wind. The Barbary Coast was also the name of a San Francisco neighbourhood famous for gambling and crime, and a regular haunt for adventurers and entrepreneurs who became rich during California's 1850s gold rush.

Xebec the Barbary Press logo


A second edition of A Hundred Years of Light and Shade was delayed by a larger work-in-progress - Eivissa-Ibiza: Island Out of Time, which grew out of various photo-hunting trips round Europe (plus San Antonio - thanks Gary!). In October 2005 the sequel was launched in Can Ventosa, Ibiza's stocking factory turned arts centre. The formula was the same - pictures, texts, biographies, researched captions - but with a key difference: full colour. And a late autumn launch meant distribution could be placed in the reliable hands of Santa Claus himself.


Harold Liebow's portrait of Sarah Nechamkin (see LiveIbiza's Artists section) has made many readers familiar with her career and beautiful landscapes. But this talented artist has also been painting the island's birds for a calendar over more than three decades. When Barbary took up the project, editorial emphasis on image plus words meant a long look at diet, courting habits, nesting patterns, and even names. Nuestras aves · Birds of Ibiza came out just in time for Sarah's full-scale retrospective at the Club Diario de Ibiza. Those who attended the launch heard Jaume Estarellas of the Consell's biodiversity section explain why Ibiza might be considered the original Atlantis: aeons ago our island sank beneath the waves, rising later on to become the ideal roost for avian species migrating between continents, completely free of the usual range of mammalian predators.


Small publishers often have their hands full, and discussing forthcoming projects is not the rule, but our next title is so close to publication that a sneak preview (Emily Kaufman's phrase) seems justified. The Road to San Vicente by Norwegian travel writer Leif Borthen describes a year spent in this remote corner in the early 1930s, together with Paul Gauguin's grandson. This first English edition will be matched by Spanish and German versions, while Leif's delightful text is illustrated throughout with dozens of engravings by resident artist Bill Fulljames. A complementary section with six other writers who 'discovered' San Vicente (including some surprising names) completes this long overdue tribute to the Balearic Shangri-La. A perfect summer/autumn read, we think - something to enjoy by the pool or to bring back memories of that special holiday, or to give as a present to anyone who understands what Ibiza is all about. The real one, I mean.

Martin Davies


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