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Books on Ibiza

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 Ibiza History Culture'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.

Pine Tree Island

Pine Tree Island (launched 18th December 2021) is the ninth title published by Barbary Press, joining a wide-ranging list that explores the cultural history of the Pityuses through images and texts in many languages. The lateen-rigged xebec hoisted its sails at the turn of the new millennium with two classic photo anthologies, Eivissa-Ibiza: A Hundred Years of Light and Shade (2000, 2nd ed. 2007) and Eivissa-Ibiza: Island out of Time (2005). These brought together the work of a hundred twentieth-century masters, complemented by literary extracts from a similar number of authors. Birds of Ibiza (2006, 2nd ed. 2013) features the unique paintings of Sarah Nechamkin, with evocative landscapes and bilingual descriptions of twenty-six avian species. Leif Borthen’s The Road to San Vicente (2007, 2nd ed. 2010), with engravings by Bill Fulljames, portrays Ibiza profunda in 1933 and 1960, rounded off by an appendix of texts by six other writers. Alexis Brown’s A Valley Wide (2008) is an elegiac memoir set in San Vicente before and after the arrival of the road that connected this idyllic writers’ retreat to the outside world. Paul Davis’s Ibiza and Formentera’s Heritage: A Non-Clubber’s Guide (2009, 3rd ed. in preparation for 2022) focuses on the islands’ remarkable architecture and archaeology, with superb bird’s-eye drawings of key heritage sites from the Bronze Age to the recent past. Ibiza’s First Hotels, 1933–1958 (2010) is a desk calendar of vintage luggage labels with a booklet of brief hotel histories. Maria Jansen’s charming The Adventures of Pepita (2012) whisks readers – young and old – into the wooded valleys of northern Ibiza, seen through the eyes of a dauntless terrier and her new-found friends. All Barbary Press titles are available in Spanish and English, and some are in other languages as well.

Martin Davies



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