|Prosper and Martine Assouline in their Paris apartment|
Within the walls of the Assouline offices, the book is tantamount to art — for instance, the Chanel Luxury Set, a sold-out 2011 book about the legendary fashion house, included a three-volume case made from signature black quilted leather and stamped with a silver metal Chanel logo (the slipcase is still in stock). South Pole: The British Antarctic expedition 1910-1913 (2016, $4,500) is a hand-bound, oversized limited edition signed by Monaco’s Prince Albert and Britain’s Princess Anne and touted as the world’s first waterproof coffee-table book. Only 150 were made, so time is of the essence.
A favorite of Prosper’s, The Impossible Collection of Wine, is an oversized limited-edition, hand-bound treatise on the 100 most exceptional vintages of the 20th century, which comes packaged in a wooden wine crate for $845. “I’m very excited about this one. It’s spectacular,” Prosper says of the book written by Enrico Bernardo, the acclaimed former sommelier at Four Seasons Georges V in Paris. He’s also enthusiastic about The Queen’s People, ($845), a volume that covers English royal protocol past, present, and future. A Buckingham Palace commission, Prosper worked with Queen Elizabeth II on the book and included her letters and photographs.
When they launched their Paris-based publishing house, in 1994, Prosper had a background in fashion and magazine publishing, and Martine was an attorney and a publicist at the fashion house Rochas. Their first book, La Colombe d’Or, celebrated the hotel in the South of France where they often spent weekends.
“We were in love with this place, so we decided, why don’t we do a book?” recalls Prosper from Assouline’s New York offices. Martine handled the text for the book, while Prosper did the graphic design. It was a small, quiet hotel without pretense, but the book captured La Colombe d’Or’s charm, the kind of savoir vivre that eventually became Assouline’s trademark. Almost 1,500 titles later, the French version of how to live the good life is paramount in all of Assouline’s books, and continues to drive its focus, no matter the topic.
The Assoulines’ roles at the company have remained constant: Prosper, 57, is the creative director, while Martine, 63, is editorial director. Each project is a joint effort from start to finish. “Sometimes we have a different point of view,” he says, “but we don’t fight. Martine sees something different, and I see something different, but 95 percent of the time, we agree on everything. It’s a conversation.”
Over the last five years, the publishing house — which has offices in New York, Paris, and London — has been quietly building itself into a luxury brand, with offerings ranging from candles and stationery to ambitious library design services. Its series of lifestyle products capture the kind of literary life Prosper and Martine adore: Assouline aromatic candles based on the scent of a library, glamorous handcrafted bookcases, desks, and library lighting, special-edition Goyard travel trunks, rugs and case goods that evoke the written word, all layered with vintage books, objects and antiques scouted by Prosper on his travels.
Assouline now has more than 20 shops located across the globe, from Istanbul, Seoul, Mexico City and Los Angeles to New York. More than a repository for glorious and expensive books, Assouline is also an oasis of culture: A shop at the Plaza in New York City offers custom bookbinding services, while the first Maison Assouline, which opened in 2014 in London’s Piccadilly, includes an art gallery, bar, custom bookbinding service, and bespoke library service that curates books for the reader.
To read my Q & A with Prosper and Martine Assouline, go to the original PaperCity story, here.