After half a century of seminal and important work, Leandro Papathanasiou, the great man of Greek-American publishing, will close the doors of Pella Publishing. Almost singlehandedly, he published The Charioteer, a critically-praised cultural annual, as well as the Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora, an academic publication focused on Modern Greek studies with a special emphasis on the exploration of Greek America.
Papathanasiou’s Athens Printing Company, a bread and butter operation, made the other work possible. Papathanasiou’s printing itself was outstanding, the work of a dedicated artisan done on rare linotype machines. The New York Times did a story on Papathanasiou. “Offering old-world printing charm amidst the digital revolution, Papathanasiou creates beautiful books sought after by aesthetically aware organizations including the Queens Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.”
Unfortunately, the Internet and digital revolution brought Pella, named after the Ancient capital of Macedonia, and Athens Printing to a close. At 80, Papathanasiou appears as nimble as a kid from “Voukarini, the smallest town in Macedonia,” his hometown, as he moves through the book-packed offices of Pella on West 36th Street in Manhattan.
Preparing to shutter Pella’s doors permanently, Papathanasiou, an extraordinarily modest man beloved by the many writers and academicians he worked with, would only say: “It is work that I loved.”
TNH columnist Dan Georgakas, Director of the Greek American Studies Project at the Center for Byzantine & Modern Greek Studies at Queens College, said: “No individual in America has done more to support quality academic journals, literary texts and scholarly works than Leandros Papathanasiou. He was a unique publisher. The closing of his press is a major loss for Greek America.” Georgakas was a longtime reader and advisor on the Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora. Because of Papathanasiou’s full-time support, the Journal was that singular academic forum not dependent on studies associations and academic departments. It was the only journal to focus on the study of Greek America.
Pella published important academic books including the Modern Greek Research Series that emerged from the Center for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies at Queens College. Along with academia, Pella published exquisite poetry books. The Charioteer, a literary collector’s treasure trove, focused on, for instance, poets Nikos Gatsos, George Seferis and Yannis Ritsos. Renowned Kimon Friar was the first Charioteer editor.
Papathanasiou wrote to longtime friends and subscribers: “Our goal these past decades was to publish articles and critical essays regarding Hellenism and the Hellenic communities. We endeavored to produce primary source documents that we hope will be useful to future scholars and to give voice to opinions and ideas which might otherwise have been lost…I truly hope that they will continue to occupy a special place in your heart and on your bookshelf for many more years to come.”
Papathanasiou told TNH: “I do hope I helped to keep the Greek literary spirit alive. Although I am one hundred percent patriotic American, I have always thought of myself as a Greek in America.” Pella Publishing will be greatly missed by the Greek-American community, but Papathanasiou has created a tremendous legacy.