Illustration By Abigail Larson

Dust jacket and interior illustrations by Abigail Larson.


  • There is a limit of one copy per edition per person/household.

From award-winning author R. F. Kuang comes Babel, a thematic response to The Secret History and a tonal retort to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell that grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of language and translation as the dominating tool of the British empire.

Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.

1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation—also known as Babel.

Babel is the world's center for translation and, more importantly, magic. Silver working—the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation using enchanted silver bars—has made the British unparalleled in power, as its knowledge serves the Empire’s quest for colonization.

For Robin, Oxford is a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge obeys power, and as a Chinese boy raised in Britain, Robin realizes serving Babel means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress, Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to stopping imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide…

Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence? 

Both editions will be:

  • Oversized, 7 x 10 trim size
  • Printed offset in two colors (black and Pantone®) on 70# archival quality paper in Opaque Bright White
  • Signed by R. F. Kuang
  • Art by Abigail Larson
  • Duotone chapter head
  • Four color plates, illustrating each of the main characters
  • Full color endsheets
  • Smyth-sewn binding
  • 560 pages

The limited edition will be casebound in cloth, with foil stamping on the spine of the book. It includes a full color wraparound dust jacket.

The lettered edition will be handbound with a custom traycase. Inspired by the style of bindings from Babel's time period, it will feature a leather spine with raised hubs and a coordinating label. The boards of the book will be covered in paper marbled by artist Renato Crepaldi. He has created for this edition a modern version of the classic zebra pattern with spots.

This will be the first SubPress lettered edition to feature spine hubs in a decade-and-a-half!

Lettered: 26 signed copies, bound as listed above, housed in a custom traycase

Limited: 500 signed numbered hardcover copies


From Booklist (Starred Review):

“Kuang follows her award-winning Poppy War trilogy with an engaging fantasy about the magic of language. Her richly descriptive stand-alone novel about an ever-expanding, alternate-world empire powered by magically enhanced silver talismans scrutinizes linguistics, history, politics, and the social customs of Victorian-era Great Britain.”

From Library Journal:

“Kuang (The Burning God) blends historical speculative fiction with dark academia to create a nuanced adventure that also serves as a critique of Western colonialism…Kuang builds on the success of her “Poppy War” trilogy and academic studies and prompts readers to question the ethics of both empire and academia.”

From Kirkus:

“It’s ambitious and powerful while displaying a deep love of language and literature...Dark academia as it should be.”

From The New York Times Book Review:

Babel has earned tremendous praise and deserves all of it. It’s Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass by way of N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season: inventive and engaging, passionate and precise.”

From Alix E. Harrow:

“Kuang has outdone herself. Babel is brilliant, vicious, sensitive, epic, and intimate; it’s both a love letter and a declaration of war. It’s a perfect book.”

Abigail Larson
R. F. Kuang
560 pages
United States