Friday, 25 February 2011

Orange Inheritances

The Orange Prize for Fiction is one of the UK's major literary prizes, going to what is judged to be the best work of fiction by a female writer. Not being from the UK myself, I hadn't realised that Orange was a telephone company, rather than just a pleasantly citric name for a prize. I only worked this out when I came across the covers to Vintage Classics' six upcoming 'Orange Inheritance' books.

What they've done is to get 6 Orange winners from various times in the last 15 years to each choose a book to be published as a Vintage Classic, with a new intro from said Orange-winner. Here are the covers. I have two observations to make: the first is that all of these would be much better without the phone company logo on them (though several of them are very nice). The second is that isn't it uncannily lucky that five of the six writers just happened to choose books which were already published by Vintage Classics (and in the sixth case, chose a book in the public domain)?

Artists all as yet unknown.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Murder, if You Can Be Bothered

I just came across this hilarious cover for a Spanish edition of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. Could Raskolnikov be any less into the murder he's about to commit? Although he barely seems to have the energy to do anything more than gently nudge Alyona Ivanovna with the axe. I've never scene a less dynamic representation of the act of murder.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Robinson on Himes

I've talked about cover work on Chester Himes before, when Pegasus rereleased two of his novels. In May this year, five of his books are being put out as Penguin Modern Classics. I have four of the covers, and they're marvellous: stark, violent black-and-white pictures by Aaron Robinson.

Robinson has Penguined before, providing the excellent cover paintings for the most recent repackaging of D. H. Lawrence...

..and one of whose covers was stolen by an ebook imprint, as detailed here.

For a different approach to Lawrence, see here.

And in an unrelated note, if you haven't played the Great Gatsby 8-bit videogame yet, you must!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Freeman on Burroughs

A sharp-eyed reader brought these wonderful covers to my attention: artist/designer Owen Freeman doing William S. Burroughs. See more here. (Click all for bigger versions.)

And here's his most recent cover image...

..and its final version, with type by Michael Salu (who I interviewed here).

Freeman's sites are well worth exploring--there aren't any other book covers there, but plenty of illustrations to go with books, like these for Raymond Chandler...

..or this for T. S. Eliot's 'The Hollow Men'...

..or this for Mary Poppins.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Making the Iceberg

I was corresponding by email with Michael Wong, an award-winning art director and book designer based in Beijing. He was talking about a recent project he had worked on, a business book called Bubble Value at Risk: Extremestan & Procyclicality. Now, there's almost nothing in that title that I understand, and it has two words that I don't think even are words, but I like the cover image of imminent disaster, and here's why.

Usually a cover like this is pretty much completely a Photoshop job, perhaps dragging in a few stock images. The result, though professional and glossy, is like most modern CGI-based movies--unconvincing and a bit dull. But Michael Wong and his associates decided to make the whole thing as a model, just using Photoshop to tweak the final elements. I'm so envious of someone who gets to make a model iceberg and model shipwrecks, and be able to call it work!

Making the iceberg

Preparing the wreckage

The final wreckage

Setting up the water tank

Lighting the scene

There's more about the making of the cover here. For more stories of book designers getting to have fun doing things like burning violins, setting fire to fields, and playing with spiders, see this article in the Guardian, which was brought to my attention by the sharp-eyed Chasch.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Gorey James

Dover Publications do a sterling job keeping a lot of great literature available at very cheap prices, as well as some great art collections and early graphic novels by the likes of Lynd Ward. But it's also true that much of their literature collection have uninspired covers and not always very sensitive typography. However, their most recent Henry James reissue, What Maisie Knew, uses the cover originally created for Anchor in the 1950s by the late Edward Gorey (about who I've written a lot in the past).

And here's the original Anchor edition:

Compare this with some of their other Jameses, and you'll agree it's a great improvement. More Gorey, please!

Here are two more old Gorey James covers, stolen from E·ratio.