Wednesday 21 December 2011

Atticus Books

Until yesterday I was not even aware that the publisher Atticus Books existed. Then I saw one of the following covers posted here, and was intrigued. Having investigated, I'm glad I did--and I'm also glad that they've only published 10 books so far, as the blurbs/precis for every single one of them makes them sound like my cup of tea. I'm ordering a few of them today.

Anyway, here are a selection of the best covers from the ten books: it's no surprise, given their beauty, to find out that the man behind them is Jamie Keenan.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Vintage Versions [Part 2]

And after yesterday's spectrum of Vintages, here's a different approach, coming out in March 2012. For this set of 7 books from the Vintage Classics backlist, the publisher has worked together with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, as part of the museum's ‘British Design 1948 – 2012: Innovation in the Modern Age’ exhibition.

Vintage have hired seven different well-known designers to do covers for the series. I've been able to get hold of six of them.Missing is John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman, with a cover design by milliner Philip Treacy.

Dodie Smith cover by textile designer Celia Birtwell

The only real dud in this lot, designed by Saatchi & Saatchi: it looks a bit as though it took 5 seconds to come up with, and 5 minutes to execute

Ian McEwen design by Wilkinson Eyre Architects

Iris Murdoch cover by fashion designer Zandra Rhodes

Graham Greene design by interior/textile designer Sue Timney

Mark Haddon design by Michael Horsham of Tomato
I would be surprised if this series wasn't at least partly inspired by the Penguin Decades series from last year: Zandra Rhodes was involved in that as well. Oddly enough, her Murdoch design is a somewhat frantic remix of the current cover by Jo Walker.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Vintage Versions [Part 1]

The first of two posts about Vintage UK redesigns of backlist books, this is a look at the Vintage 21. In celebration of the imprint's 21st birthday, they had 21 of their most popular books printed with text-only covers. More importantly, each of the 21 was printed all in one colour (with some variations of shade)--the front, back, text and even page edges were all matched.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, printed in white, might have seemed drab next to the others, but special extra-bright paper was used to fit it with the rest of the set.

Here are the three which I both did not already own and did want to read.

The effect is very dramatic, especially with several of them together, as you can see. Nobody is credited on the books themselves with the series design, so that must remain a mystery.

Birds & Apocalypses

In honour of Russell Hoban, who has just passed away, a great author of both adult and children's books, and the man responsible for one of the greatest novels of all time, the post-nuclear-holocaust Riddley Walker, I thought I'd take a look at another avant-garde take on the apocalypse, Adam Novy's The Avian Gospels.

I first came across this via a rave review in Publishers Weekly. It sounded fascinating, and that was before I actually saw the book. Published by Short Flight/Long Drive Books, it's a thing of beauty, taking its cue from the book's title and theme with a very biblical look--most specifically, the little Gideon's you find in hotel rooms.

Designed by Elizabeth Ellen and Aaron Burch, the woman behind SF/LD and the man behind the parent Hobart Pulp, this design splits the book into 2 volumes--a fat 'old testament' and a thin 'new', with gilded page edges, ribbon bookmarks and page reference numbers.

After buying these, I found that everyone who orders them from the publisher gets a free ebook edition too, which is probably a good idea. But if ever you needed a reason to avoid ebooks, it's when the physical alternative is this beautifully considered and produced.

SF/LD seem to specialise in these genre/format-warping exercises: Karl Taro Greenfeld's story collection is disguised as a series of travel guides, while Michelle Orange's travel book is in the format of a passport. This sort of madness is only to be encouraged.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Mendelsund Foucaults

Synchronicity! A week or so ago, keen-eyed reader Monty Carlo (possibly not his real name) pointed me towards these beautiful covers designed by Peter Mendelsund for the Vintage US covers of Michel Foucault's work. I hadn't seen them: over here in the Commonwealth our Foucaults aren't so striking, as the actress said to the bishop. And then the other day the Casual Optimist lists them as part of his much-delayed best covers of 2010 post. So here they are...

These were even part of the AIGA 50 of 2010, so how I missed them I don't know. Feebleness, presumably.

Monday 5 December 2011

Matt Taylor's Le Carre's Update (plus Pelham and Wolpe for walls)

In May I raved about Matt Taylor's wonderful John Le Carre covers for Penguin US. He's produced one more, for January's republication of the classic The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.

And here's the un-texted illustration.

Also! Heroes of this blog David Pelham and Berthold Wolpe have some of their celebrated cover designs for Penguin and Faber respectively available as fancy art prints here. If you have any wall space not obscured by jammed bookshelves, how about filling it with some book covers?

Here are the designs: Wolpe's famous text-based covers for Faber, and Pelham's famous A Clockwork Orange and J. G. Ballard covers.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Strangely Familiar

This has been the series look of Penguin Modern Classics in the UK for several years: bold, dramatic text in Avante Garde Gothic, left-aligned, for both author and title. Instantly recognisible to those of us in the Commonwealth...

..and this is the series look for 'Vigo Essential Classics', yet another charge-for-classics-on-the-Kindle outfit, publishing from June this year, and surely on by coincidence also making use of Penguin's famous shade of orange (which they've been using since the 1930s)...

..and this is the cover for an upcoming book from a (very reputable) publisher of international crime, Bitter Lemon Press...

A question, then--when does this sort of emulation cross the line, given that neither of these covers is a parody of the Penguin design?

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Mockery, WITH Covers (and, be warned, breasts)

There's a certain appeal for many readers in the Mars/Barsoom tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Burroughs was no great writer, but he was prolific and, perhaps more importantly, his Martian princess heroine Dejah Thoris spent her entire time naked (Google Image search her name for some of the excitible art this has prompted.). Burroughs also has the advantage of being out of copyright, so anyone who wants to can cash in with reprints of his books. I came across a series of these from Deodand Publishing (I should note here that unlike many publishers of the out-of-copyright, Deodand do not charge ludicrously high prices for their books). The art reminds me of that drawn by heavy metal fans in early high school--more enthusiastic than talented...

There are more effective ways to cash in, of course. Comics company Dynamite is busy adapting the books for comics, and doing their best to squeeze money from idiots by offering various hard-to-find and thus ridiculously expensive "variant covers" (a common way comics companies have to rip off those most eager to be ripped off)--see six of the eight available versions of the first issue...

..and you will notice what Dynamite is pinning their fiscal hopes on, the subtle and sophisticated "risque nude variants", like so...

There's a truly odd cynicism behind this sales ploy, in that even though the books feature the heroine constantly nude, thus actually justifying this sort of objectification (in terms of source fidelity if not in any other way), the actual comics themselves do not feature nudity on the inside pages. Since this is hardly likely to be due to taste or restraint, I can only imagine it's an attempt to be able to sell the non-nude-covered versions of the comics to kids, without creating the sort of moral panic that occasionally occurs when American parents find nipples in their kids' comic books.

Changing the subject entirely, and going back to book covers for a moment, I was surprised by this cover from Dodo Press. Can anyone suggest why Thorne Smith's second supernatural-comedy about Topper and his two friendly ghost friends should end up with Fyodor Dostoevsky on the cover?

At least it's not a risque nude variant.