Sunday 30 November 2008

English Journeys

Once or twice a year Penguin put out a set of 20 small books culled from their classics backlist. Sometimes it's a set of Great Ideas, or else Great Loves or Great Journeys. In April next year they're doing the same thing with English Journeys. Most of the books do not yet have covers, and none of the books is yet listed in the Penguin catalogue, but here are the few covers I've managed to scrounge.

Plus a couple of unfinalised ones...

I'm not sure of the designer/illustrator behind these yet. On past form I'd guess at David Pearson, but time will tell.

CORRECTION: Coralie Bickford-Smith has kindly pointed out that these are, in fact, the work of Nathan Burton. Nice one!

David Pearson's New Classics

The inestimable Will of A Journey Round My Skull kindly pointed me in the direction of a new publishing venture co-headed by David Pearson, often discussed on this blog. It's called White's Books, and the idea behind it is to produce beautiful hardback editions of established classics. Pearson does the typesetting himself, and invites some of his favourite designers to do the covers and endpapers. An interview at the 'Creative Review' blog discusses the ideas behind the range and the designs in more depth, so here we'll just gawk at the books.

First, here's Pearson's own cover for Shakespeare's collected poetry.

Here is Petra Börner's Jane Eyre. Börner was discussed on this blog earlier on here.

This is Stanley Donwood's Treasure Island, a lithographic print similar to his huge 'London Views' work detailing the destruction of England's capital by flood and fire. Some of you may also know Donwood through his design work for Radiohead.

The last of the initial White's offerings is Joe McLaren on Dickens.

Friday 28 November 2008

My Eyes! Epilogue

It's easy to make fun of the covers of various dodgy ebook editions of the classics. In all fairness, though, some of these publishers do also release new work by new writers.

Judging by this cover, I think it's safe to say that whatever 'Men' thought they knew about Christian women previously, it was quite wrong.

Thursday 27 November 2008

My Eyes! My Eyes!

All of the endless discussion about ebooks has probably bored you as much as it has me. I love codici, and I spend enough time staring at a computer screen without doing it for my reading as well.

Another argument against ebooks is the horrific "cover" design that many of them seem to be blighted by. I know that the fact that an ebook is a non-physical object means that there's no need to concentrate on the packaging, but for fuck's sake, have you seen some of these things?

Some believe Ford Madox Ford's original title was 'The Saddest Story'. In fact, it was 'The Good, but Short and Fat Soldier'. And I love the way they couldn't even be bothered including the author's surname.

Hey, there's a room, there's a view. What more do you fucking well want?

Plot Summary: A wrongful trial; an escape to riches; vengeance; redemption; some wet leaves.

Possibly one of the ugliest 'covers' ever. You've got to love the font that makes it look like a cheap-arse DVD rather than an OVID.


Fortunately, volume two uses the same cover. And if there's one thing readers of ebooks really need, it's having big books broken up into parts. After all, those Kindles only hold 7 pages.

Not quite the vibe Gorky was going for, I suspect. But cheap-arse clipart is never inappropriate!


Tuesday 25 November 2008

Smashing Specs

It's variations on a theme time. The first cover I can recall that made use of smashed spectacles was the "educational edition" of William Golding's Lord of the Flies that we all read in high school.

Flies is, by the way, an end-of-the-world novel, though not normally remembered as such: the reason the boys are flying over the island, before their crash, is that they have been packed off by their parents to save them from a massive nuclear war.

Anyway, in recent years, these spectacles (usually broken) have been cropping up again and again, each time on the cover of a book concerned with the fate of various more-or-less innocents at the hands of the Nazis.

The Guardian might call Liquidation a powerfull book, by the way, but my own relative disappointment with it leads me to suggest you read Imre Kertész's The Pathseeker instead, which is a very nifty little book.

Seeing Double on Absinthe

John Self of Asylum, probably the internet's best collection of book reviews, kindly pointed out to me another of these two-covers, one-image occasions.

The first is Leonid Tsypkin's novel about Dostoevsky on a gambling binge, Summer in Baden-Baden, a book I really, really wanted to like but had a great deal of trouble getting into.

The second is the new Vintage Classics editions of Somerset Maugham's thoroughly entertaining and faintly mad The Magician, a science-fantasy riff on the life of self-proclaimed "wickedest man alive" and proclaimed-by-me "tedious wanker" Aleister Crowley.

The original is a Pernot ad by Leonetto Cappiello.

Mysteriously, the Penguin Tsypkin cover has removed the label from the bottle.

There's more on Cappiello and absinthe in an earlier post, here.

UPDATE: Now we're seeing triple...

Thursday 20 November 2008

From Out of Nowhere Part II

...and here they are!

Three with characteristic Penguin Modern Classics covers...

..and one with what I would assume was on old 1970s cover if it weren't for the sticker.

It better be a sticker, and not one of those horrible printed-on-the cover jobbies.

An Interview with David Drummond

You NEED to click to see a bigger version of these gorgeous covers

One of the best book designers working today, and a regular and deserved winner of accolades and awards, Canadian David Drummond was kind enough to agree to be the latest victim in this series of interviews. When selecting images to accompany this interview, it was incredibly hard to make choices: visit his Salamander Hill Design website or his blog, and you'll find beautiful cover after beautiful cover.

* * *

CAUSTIC COVER CRITIC: What's your design background? How long have you been doing book design?

DAVID DRUMMOND: I have a degree in Graphic Design and worked for about 8 years doing corporate design before starting book cover designs.

CCC: Most of the photographs you use in your book covers seem to be your own, rather than stock images. Why do you prefer working this way?

DD: I would probably describe my work as photo/illustration and I find I have the most control over final outcome if I photograph it myself and then really get to work in Photoshop.

CCC: Some of the books you've done covers for seem like the sort of thing that, at first, would make most people go, 'How the hell am I going to do this?' (I'm thinking of books such as Mapping Marriage Law in Spanish Gitano Communities), even though the final covers you come up with are really clever. Do you have a specific process for books whose title/theme doesn't immediately suggest something visual?

DD: I am sort of a victim of my own success I guess, because I often get covers where the first line of the brief is, “We couldn’t think of an image and thought your conceptual approach would be perfect for this.” When they are really tough, like another book on multiculuralism in Canada, I just start off by saying, “OK, how can you find a solution that puts a new twist on it?”

CCC: Can you tell us a bit more about working on the 'Parker' novel covers? Are you doing the rest of the series as they're brought back into print? And what's it like doing a matching series rather than a book cover which stands on its own?

DD: I just did three more in this series and as far as I know there will be more next season.

I really like working on series and try to always find an original way to tie all the books together without being too monolithic. I originally wanted to commission illustrations for the Parker series but because of budget constraints decided to do the illustrations myself.

CCC: What's it like presenting several possibilities to a publisher, and have them choose the one you least like? How common is this?

DD: To be honest, for most of the publishers I work with I start off presenting only one concept. For the times when it is rejected it gives me a clear idea of how to re-orient and get closer to the right solution. I would say 70 percent of the time my first presented concept is the one that makes it all the way through.
Above: David's first nine covers for the 'Art of Living' series from Acumen in the UK
Below: A great cover that ended up unused

For the publishers that ask for multiple concepts, I always state my recommendation. If it isn’t chosen at least I feel like I presented my case. One of the pitfalls of presenting multiple concepts is that you are not there to defend them, and you are really leaving it up to a committee to decide with no chance to rebut. A really strong direction could be killed because someone doesn’t like orange.

CCC: What's your favourite rejected cover?

DD: I am not sure that I have a favourite rejected cover. I don’t really consider them covers unless they are printed.

Two very-much-not-rejected covers: the Striphas cover makes use of a book dunked in water and then 'sculpted' into shape

CCC: Are there any other book designers do you admire?

DD: Too many to list. There really are a lot of great cover designers working today.

CCC: Ever been asked to design/cover/illustrate a book you couldn't stand?

DD: No. But there have been books where I really do think I made the book look more interesting than it really is.

CCC: Thank you, Mr Drummond!

Fame at last for David's dog, Beau.

Wednesday 19 November 2008

From Out of Nowhere

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio's winning of the Nobel Prize in Literature this year has caught a lot of people on the hop, as there was bugger-all of his work in print in English translation.

With somewhat startling speed, though, both Vintage Classics and Penguin Classics have reacted so that each have three of his books scheduled to come out in the next couple of weeks. The Penguins have no finalised covers yet available online (and, indeed, are not yet even listed on Penguin's website), but these are the Vintage covers.

I'm intrigued by all three, but remain completely in the dark as to what the books are about.

Coralie's Classics

I've raved here before about Coralie Bickford-Smith's beautiful covers: especially on the classic thriller and classic adventure covers she did for Penguin.

Well, she's done another set of gorgeous books: unfortunately, they're part of a deal between Penguin and a certain big UK bookselling chain, so aren't available in good bookshops. But we can at least look at them and their beautifully patterned cloth bindings online. And they have ribbon bookmarks. (Click for bigger versions.)

This must be Penguin's 3,884,967th edition of Pride and Prejudice. Of course, only 178 of those are currently in print.