Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Triple-Deckers Return

In the Victorian era, big (and even not so big) novels were routinely broken up into three volumes by the publishers. There was a simple reason for this: pressure from libraries. At the time, libraries were a commercial proposition, and you paid for each book you borrowed. This meant that to read a whole book, you needed to pay three subscriptions, which is why the libraries liked the triple-decker format, and why they pressured publishers into continuing with it.

Since then, of course, big books have usually been published as single volumes, except in the fantasy and science-fiction genres. But the decision in 2008 to publish 2666 as three volumes in a slipcase was a welcome bit of nostalgia: you paid the same as for a single book, but you got a beautiful set of books in an attractive case.

Hamish Hamilton in the UK seem to have been inspired by this: they have just published Paul Murray's Skippy Dies in a similar format. I've only just got my copy, so I can't tell you yet whether the structure of the book suits the format as well as 2666 did, but it's an undeniably attractive bit of design, with artwork by Leanne Shapton.

 
  
 


Shapton has also recently published a book of her own--a novel in the form of an auction catalogue, consisting of possessions going under the hammer after the end of a relationship--called Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry...



..as well as providing lettering and design elements for a number of other book covers in the US.

 
  
 

6 comments:

Ian Shimkoviak said...

Skippy Dies. So nicely done... just came upon this today somewhere else..

jem said...

I like the idea of these triple deckers. Either they add an element of emphasis to three part stories, or they help the practical management of reading long books, as with the three part Jonathon Strange and Mr Norrell that I read.

I really like the 'Nausea' cover too - breaking up the word like that seems to emphasis the title so much more. And you really feel yourself saying each syllable in your head.

tom said...

Skippy Dies it's a decent book too. Well worth reading ... The 'split' works fine - doesn't feel necessary, but definitely not clumsy.

Roger said...

Alasdair Gray's Lanark- originally in one massive volume- has been reissued by Canongate with each of the four books in its own individual volume. The disadvantage here is that "Book 2" was meant to be read brfore "Book 1".

Robert Hanks said...

Star fact: "Important artifacts..." is one of my wife's favourite books.

JRSM said...

It looks fascinating. I haven't seen a copy in Australia yet, but am still looking.