Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Man in Fog

Before getting to the man in the fog, a bit of self-promotion. I have a piece coming up in the next issue of McSweeney's The Believer magazine (the one with the great Charles Burns covers). Due out in under a week, buy your copy for a pittance here! I also co-wrote a piece for The Huffington Post, which will theoretically turn up at some point.

Anyway, back to the man in the fog. In the first proper post here, I talked about an image that turned up on a number (five at the time) of book covers. The photo is 'Man in Fog' from 1935, by Arthur Tanner.

I now know of it appearing on nine books (more, in fact, since the Simenon below stands in for a whole series of Maigret books, all of which used the image).

Books vs Keira Knightley Part II

Keira Knightley's inexorable takeover of literature continues...

And there's more to come...

Monday, 25 October 2010

Set Hair

Peter Mendelsund's cool cover for a (we hope) upcoming autobiography from the late Benoit Mandelbrot, who died 12 days ago:

This obituary from the UK's Daily Telegraph is a masterpiece of clarity and concision if you want to know what the fuss was all about.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Visualising Big Numbers

I recently read an essay by Chinua Achebe in which he described the difficulty humans have with visualising big numbers. The number one million is a good example. Millions of people or dollars are regularly mentioned by politicians and journalists, to the point where they actually don't seem that impressively big a number any longer. Achebe counters this by saying, "I sometimes startled my students by telling them that it was not yet one million days since Christ was on earth."

A new book designed by Think Studio, Hendrik Hertzberg's One Million, is another attempt to visualise this massive number. It has 1,000,000 dots, 5000 to a page, with notations showing various significant numbers. So that you can see the number made concrete.

Here are some of the interior page spreads--click for big, readable versions.

Thanks to Think's John Clifford for providing the interior page images.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Hurting Your Eyes with Science Fiction

As a follow-up to the 3D Vintage SF classics, and this eye-warping SF cover from Gollancz, how about these upcoming Orbit paperbacks? It's a trilogy being released over three months, with nice optical illusion covers by Lauren Panepinto. (Click for bigger, thoroughly boggling versions.)

Laren has produced a number of other great covers, of which these are probably my favourites...

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Snow Paint

I don't know who did this cover (UPDATE: It's the work of Clare Skeats, of whose fantastic designs you can see more here), and the book's not out until next year (from Granta), but it's both simple and effective. Perhaps it's just me, but I really like the way the slightly scratchy/streaky texture of the paint mimics the hard ridges you get in ice or hard snow (especially on the left-hand side)--the kind you tread on, slip on, and and break your leg on. Click for a bigger version.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

An Ape with a Cigar IN YOUR FACE

Coming next year from Vintage Classics UK is the somewhat new concept of 3D book cover art*. They're publishing a set of five science-fiction classics, each of which will come with a pair of red/green 3D glasses in order to appreciate the covers. Here are the covers... (click on the first three for much bigger versions, especially if you already own a pair of old anaglyph glasses)

These aren't bad at all, though the Lovecraft misses the opportunity to do something which actually hurts the eyes, which would have been appropriate.

(UPDATE: And as Óscar Palmer notes in the comments, the two Vernes are the work of Jim Tierney, who also did these gorgeous Verne covers as part of his student work. Tierney is now working for Penguin in the US, a well-deserved role.)

And here's another of the Vintage Classics D. H. Lawrences with a Carla van de Puttelaar cover photo (see here for the others).

* Relatively new for non-lascivious purposes, in any case. The only other 3D books that I've seen in bookshops are along these lines...

And for more unlikely ape action, look here.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Last night I devoured the most beautiful book: the Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will, by German writer and artist Judith Schalansky, published in English by Penguin's Particular Books imprint. It's wonderful: like one of Borges's eccentric encyclopaedias (The Book Of Imaginary Beings or A Universal History of Iniquity come to mind), each entry is a piece of art in itself. Alongside the maps of the islands in question are stories from their histories--tales of utopians, murderers, prisoners and dictators; of the lost, the mad, cannibals and scientists; of nuclear bombs and tonnes of accumulated birdshit. It's all described with a voice that is both lucid and poetic, a style which, while explaining things, actually makes the world seem more mysterious. It is, in a word, great.

Click for bigger, readable versions.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Social Relevance

I've discussed the cunning ploy used by publisher Orion/Gollancz/Weidenfeld for republishing classic books owned by another publisher: get hold of the cheap hardback rights, and publish the book as a small hardback at a paperback price. It's a tactic they're already using on a number of H. G. Wells' most famous SF works (see below), and they're about do it with five of his best 'social novels'. The designs for these paperback-sized hardbacks were done by Luke Roberts and Simon Cox, who won a competition run by design group D&AD. They run with the 'social problem' aspect by using a period newspaper look, with an object lying on the newspaper which interacts with a newspaper photograph in some way.

See more pictures here, and other entries in the competition here. (I especially like this, this, this and this.)

Penguin owns the paperback right to Wells' work, hence this hardback scheme. As I said before, a number of Wells' SF works are now in the Gollancz SF Masterworks series as cheap hardbacks. This excellent collection of books was recently given a facelift. Unfortunately, as I remarked before, part of this facelift involves tinting all of the covers a urinous yellow colour, a not entirely successful nod to the mid-20th-Century yellowjacket look of the Gollancz SF line.

And to compare, here are the Penguin Classics editions of these various titles, featuring the screenprint cover designs of Kate Gibb.