Wednesday 18 January 2012

Dull Graves

So I get my copies of two of the newest Penguin Modern Classics, reprints of some of the lesser-known Robert Graves novels. And they have no fucking covers, or at least no cover art: just the basic template text for the series. And they're £15 each. For no fucking cover.

I'm not impressed. I mean, here's a cover I came up with and put together in literally 7 minutes for Wife to Mr Milton, using only a public domain image and a free stock photo. It's far from a work of brilliance, but it's better than nothing, surely. Do they want people to pick these books up or not? Madness!

And there seem to be at least 4 other Graves reprints lined up with the same non-covers. I hope this can't-be-arsed attitude doesn't spread to the rest of the Modern Classics line.

Monday 16 January 2012

Flipping Hitch

An odd thing I just noted. Here are the Australian and one of the UK covers for the late Christopher Hitchens' big book of essays, Arguably.

It's the same photo, but for no readily apparent reason, flipped over. This means that somebody had to go in and fix the book spines in the flipped image (which would be the UK version at bottom), though it hasn't been done quite perfectly. The Vanity Fair Portraits on the floor has had its spine fixed, but not the front cover (original on left, retouched on right--click for bigger).

And the books on the shelves have been changed, too: the books in the box have been flipped around, but the book immediately above them has had its spine flipped, but not its cover--peer closely, and you'll see the mismatch.

So I find myself wondering why this was done at all? Why flip such a tricky photo when the original seems fine? Why make so much pointless work for a graphic designer? And, more importantly, why have I then wasted a whole heap of time peering at this and pointing it out?

Thursday 12 January 2012


Slinkachu is a deservedly successful artist who creates miniature street scenes on real-life streets, photographing them and then leaving them behind to become part of the environment, and a mystery for those who might later encounter them. He's put out two collections so far, Little People in the City (the front cover of which is 'They're not pets, Susan.') and the exhibition catalogue Concrete Island.

Here are some of his photos from the books.

I bring him up now because yesterday saw the release of the English translation of Belgian writer Dimitri Verhulst's book The Misfortunates by Portobello Books. Portobello wisely commissioned Slinkachu to create the cover for this tale of a family of Belgian drunks and their misadventures.

See much more of Slinkachu's work at his site, or visit the blog where he posts new work.

Monday 9 January 2012

A Post that Points to the Archives

Just a quick post here in response to a couple of things. First, I was sad to learn that Ronald Searle had died. For a look at his excellent and wide array of book cover designs, please see here, with follow-ups here and here.

Then there was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Charles Addams, which Google celebrated on the search home page, and which sent a startling number of visitors to this collection of his book covers.

I'll be raising a glass to the memory of these two great, bleak, scabrous cartoonists.

Wednesday 4 January 2012


Last year I came across the Good Ink venture of  Scout Books, a publishing and printing company that produces small and attractive chapbooks. Good Ink created the American Shorts series, in which ten great American short story writers had one (or occasionally more) of their best stories printed is an individual book, with illustrations by a young artist (many of them cartoonists and comics artists). On Monday I finally got the last few books in the series, filling out my collection of the full ten, so it's time to share. Click on any of the photos for much bigger versions.

Ambrose Bierce, illustrated by Francois Vigneault; Washington Irving illustrated by Bwana Spoons
Scott Fitzgerald illustrated by Vanessa Davis; Kate Chopin illustrated by Gemma Correll

Mark Twain illustrated by Meg Hunt; Charlotte Perkins Gilman illustrated by Aaron Renier

Nathaniel Hawthorne illustrated by Zack Soto; Poe illustrated by Tom Neely

Jack London illustrated by Michael C. Hsiung; O. Henry illustrated by Kate Bingaman-Burt
These are actual pocket books--3.5 by 5 inches in size, with 32 pages--and really nicely made, from good-quality all-recycled paper. If you've got more brains than me, you'll notice that there's a box set and buy that, rather than buying all of the books individually.

Monday 2 January 2012

21 Penguins to Start the Year Off Properly

Let's kick of 2012 with an elegant set of Penguins, shall we? These are the resuscitation of the 'Penguin English Library' series, which will presumably run alongside the Penguin Classics, penguin Popular Classics, Penguin Red Classics, Penguin Pocket Classics and various other ranges, meaning that the one publisher releases 17,235 different versions of some books. (I kid, though only slightly--Penguin Australia has at least 7 different version of Pride and Prejudice in print, for example.)

Anyway, here are the 21 covers from the series which I have found so far, coming out from April this year. They follow the lovely designs Coralie Bickford-Smith made for the Penguin Hardback Classics (see here, for example), and I would not be surprised if they were her work as well. Redundant though the books themselves may be, they've been given a charming and thoughtful series look which allows for a lot of individual variation for each title.