The year 1921 was marked in Pessoa’s life and work by the founding of the Olisipo company and publishing house. Named after the ancient name of the city of Lisbon – which would mean “safe harbor” and be linked to the legend of Ulisses as the city’s founder – Pessoa created this commercial and literary entity, with the goal of both promoting Lusitanian culture and commerce internationally, and publishing Portuguese and world literature in Portugal. This cosmopolitan spirit of the company is reflected in one of the possible alternative names Pessoa probably thought of giving the company: Cosmopolis.

«Olisipo, Agentes, Organizadores e Editores» operated between 1921 and 1923, and its first office was located, in 1921, in downtown Lisbon, precisely at Rua da Assunção, nº 58, 2º. In , 1922 the company – which had as other partners, besides Pessoa, Geraldo Coelho de Jesus (engineer) and Augusto Ferreira Gomes (writer and journalist) – changed address. The Olisipo logo was designed by Almada Negreiros.

As for the publishing project, it was very ambitious, but little was published, namely, in 1921, the book A Invenção do Dia Claro by the aforementioned Almada Negreiros, and the books by Fernando Pessoa English Poems I-II, integrating the poems Antinous and Inscriptions, and English Poems III, containing Epithalamium. These are two of the very few books that Pessoa published during his lifetime, both in English. In addition to these volumes, Canções of António Botto was published in 1922, and Sodoma Divinizada by Raul Leal in 1923.

Pessoa’s goal, through Olisipo as well as other entrepreneurial endeavors throughout his life, was to achieve a certain economic and financial stability that would allow him to dedicate himself to his literary work and thought without having to worry about money. However, Pessoa never achieved this goal, and Olisipo remained as one of the many projects he started but never fully realized.

Besides the editorial part, which was initially supposed to include translations (which were never published), Olisipo included the “Companhia de Produtos Portugueses”, aimed at promoting Portugal abroad, and also a commercial segment as a business intermediation service.

Fabrizio Boscaglia

Consulted Texts:
António Mega Ferreira, Fazer pela Vida, Um Retrato de Fernando Pessoa, o Empreendedor, Lisboa, Assírio & Alvim, 2005.
Ana Maria Freitas, «Olisipo», Modern!ismo: arquivo virtual da Geração de Orpheu, page consulted on December 30, 2021.


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