PROVIDENCE — Two young business owners are dusting off the classics and bringing some of the most treasured literary works back to life and back into the hands of readers around the world.
Scott Thompson, 28, and John Clarke, 28, are behind the up-and-coming Catholic publishing firm Cluny Media, based out of Rhode Island. The two Providence College alums and parishioners of St. Pius V Church, are dedicated to re-publishing books in the Catholic literary and intellectual traditions that have fallen out-of-print with the large publishers.
The firm takes its name from the Benedictine monastery of Cluny, whose monks established libraries and were responsible for the acquisition, preservation, transcription and illumination of hundreds of books — both religious and pagan, explained Clarke.
“Like those same monks, we have a deep admiration for and an abiding appreciation of good books,” Clarke said. “Our work at Cluny exists for the very reason that good Catholic books from a host of genres have been neglected.”
As a Catholic publisher in the 21st century, the duo are responding to the immediate and critical need to preserve and maintain the Catholic tradition.
“The tradition is not static or passive; it is living — it is an activity: we can live the tradition when we read a book,” said Clarke. “And we have found that the more you live the tradition, the more you admire it and the more you want to share it with others.”
Cluny Media has featured titles by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Jacques Maritain, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Romano Guardini, Rumer Godden, Sigrid Undset and dozens more in a catalog of more than 200 titles.
Three to five new re-publications are released every month and occasionally publish original works such as Archbishop Di Noia’s collection of sermons and Father Nicanor Austriaco’s “Thomistic Evolution.”
Aside from the thoughtful selection of reawakened books, the covers are reimaged and serve as beautiful works of art in themselves.
Clarke described why eye-catching imagery is an important part of the republishing process.
“A book, front to back, inside and outside, should be a work of art. One aspect of good art is that it is unified. When we design a book, we look to unify the book’s elements into a single piece. We achieve that by selecting a visually representative image of the story,” he said.
Thompson shared that their Catholic faith has played an important role in their work and is the foundation of the company and its mission.
“As Christians, we all know that our primary mission is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. “Ours is a slightly more subtle and indirect attempt to do just that. Our books speak of what is true, good, and beautiful; in one way or another always directing the reader to God.”
Both Clarke and Thompson have noticeably put their hearts into the mission of Cluny. Thompson left his own mark in writing the foreword for the re-published screenplay of Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He shared what it felt to have his own words included with a work cherished by so many.
“Watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ after Christmas Eve Mass is a Thompson family tradition. George Bailey’s is a great story of the beauty of living an ordinary life in an extraordinary way. Writing an introduction for the screenplay that elaborates on that idea was a great pleasure. It’s my hope that anyone reading my introduction will simply be directed to the great accomplishment of Capra’s in beautifully conveying part of the greatest commandment — love your neighbor.”
The success of the company and the positive response from readers is confirmation that Cluny is contributing something valuable to the Church and the culture.
“From the cultural, artistic, literary and spiritual vantage points, we are a people hungry for solid food,” said Clarke. “Cluny aims to offer an alternative to the soft, savorless meal plan of the present age — it is a challenging, sometimes complex alternative, but ultimately a worthwhile and highly enjoyable one. We believe the enthusiastic response of Cluny’s readers to our work since our inception proves that.
We are so grateful for the many readers who have reached out to express either their gratitude that the titles in the Cluny catalog are back and affordable or their appreciation for being newly introduced to figures in the Catholic tradition with which they were previously unfamiliar.”
Clarke and Thompson are committed to making Cluny a Catholic’s go-to source for some of the best that has been thought and said. They want the public to know that, in short — these books are worth reading.
“Our books are not limited to polemical topics or coverage of current events; ours have stood the test of time and are the ones with which you can build a library,” said Thompson. “You cannot love what you do not know. That said, you do not need to pick up a graduate-level theology textbook to learn more about our Faith, although you can — Cluny has several! A good Catholic novel can be just as edifying. The faithful have so many resources at their disposal to learn about our Lord and faith. We hope to be but one of these.”