Archives for Book design

First Edition: ‘Couples’ by John Updike #oldbooks #bookcovers

John Updike became popular for his Rabbit series about Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom and the film of his book, The Witches of Eastwick, starring a devilish Jack Nicholson. But Couples, first published in 1968 in the USA by Knopf [below], is hailed as the novel which brought the Sixties sexual revolution to literary fiction. First editions of the Knopf hardback can be found on eBay for $15, and £15 on Amazon UK. Perhaps one to lay down for the future? Updike won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction twice, in 1982 and 1991, for two of his Rabbit books. The current UK Penguin Classics edition [below] dates from 2007. Buy The story It is 1962 in Tarbox, Massachusetts. Against a backdrop of real historical events – the loss of the USS Thresher in 1963, the Profumo Affair, the Kennedy assassination – a group of ten promiscuous couples struggle to reconcile modern sexual freedoms with established Protestant sexual behaviour. The lyrical descriptions of sex made the book rather notorious. When asked about the difficulties of writing about sex, Updike said, “They were no harder than landscapes and a little more interesting. It’s wonderful the way people in bed talk, the sense of voices and
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Categories: Book design and Book Love.

First Edition: ‘The Crying of Lot 49’ by Thomas Pynchon #oldbooks

I admit here that I read Thomas Pynchon’s post-modern novella The Crying of Lot 49 at university and enjoyed it without really understanding it. First published in 1966, it tells the story of Oedipa Maas and what happens after her ex-partner dies. Pynchon had fun creating wonderful character names, so unusual and clever they reminded me of Charles Dickens – Oedipa’s partner is Pierce Inverarity, her husband is Wendell “Mucho” Maas, Oedipa’s lawyer Metzger works for Warpe, Wistfull, Kubitschek and McMingus, and in a bar she meets Mike Fallopian. The plot is labyrinthine, it is a Marmite book, love it or hate it, and I suspects features on many people’s lists of unfinished books. It does, however, have some interesting cover design. The first edition in the USA was published by JB Lippincott & Co [above]. The current Vintage Classics edition [below] was published in 1996. Buy here The story In brief, Oedipa’s ex partner Pierce has died and she is named as co-executor of his will. The catalyst to the story is her discovery of a set of stamps which may, or may not, have been used by a secret underground postal delivery system called the Trystero. As she travels
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Categories: Book design and Book Love.

First Edition: ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding #oldbooks

A moral for all times about self-governance, Lord of the Flies was the first novel of schoolteacher William Golding. It tells the story of a group of British schoolboys stranded on an uninhabited island and their disastrous attempts to govern themselves. It was not an instant hit, going out of print in the USA a year after publication, but it went onto be a bestseller. In the middle of an unspecified war, a plane crashes on a remote island in the Pacific. Fair-haired Ralph believes that grown-ups will come to rescue them, but Piggy says they should get organised. “Put first things first and act proper.” The novel explores the conflicting human impulses towards civilisation, social order, living according to the rules, with the pursuit of power. It is abrilliantly observed study of teenagers free of the usual rules and conventions imposed by adults. Artwork for the first UK Faber edition [above], published on September 17, 1954 is by Anthony Gross. The current Faber edition [below] was first published in 1997. Buy here. The story During a wartime evacuation, a British aeroplane crashes on an isolated island in the Pacific Ocean. The only survivors are adolescent boys. Two boys – fair-haired Ralph,
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Categories: Book design and Book Love.

Book review: The Penny Heart

This is the sort of novel which creates a world into which you can sink. It is a story of revenge, cookery and two women in 18th century England, connected by one man. The story of The Penny Heart by Martine Bailey is told by the two women, who cannot be more different. It is about the nature of truth, the passage of time and the difficulty of deciphering the lies hidden within truth. In 1787 when Mary Jebb is caught playing a confidence trick on a young man, she is sentenced to the colonies. Before she leaves, she sends two pennies, each engraved with a promise, to the two men she blames for her fate. These are the penny hearts. In contrast, virtuous and timid Grace Moore marries handsome Michael Coxon in a property deal arranged by her father and husband. She soon learns that her husband is not what he seems. At the isolated and rundown Delafosse Hall she is lonely but finds a friend in her new cook, Peg. By halfway through I really didn’t want to put the book down and the last third runs along with an ingenious ending that was impossible to foresee. Whose
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Categories: Book design.

Cover design: a new look for ‘Ignoring Gravity’

As the two-year anniversary of Ignoring Gravity’s publication approaches, it seemed timely to give it a fresh look. Connectedness, second in the ‘Rose Haldane: Identity Detective’ series will be published next year and I was keen for both books to have a co-ordinated image. That meant finding a new designer for both books and also third in the series, Sweet Joy [currently evolving]. Below is the existing cover which has been an important part of my branding as a debut author. Enter cover designer Jessica Bell, who sent me a long and very detailed questionnaire. This was an instructive process and made me re-consider my own vision of the book, no doubt evolved now since publication in November 2014. Jessica says her questionnaire enables her to construct the ‘perfect cover without having to read the book.’ In particular she highlighted my phrase: Trees/leaves/roots/growth are a constant metaphor throughout the series for family history/family tree. I would like the covers for each of the books to have a common theme. Something simple. Jessica explains: ‘This really sparked my ideas for this cover as I very much like ‘simple’ as well. I find that the less a reader’s eye has to focus on
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Categories: Book design, Book Love and On Writing.

The Doves Type: resurrected from the River Thames

Have you heard of the Doves Type? Designed by Thomas James Cobden Sanderson and engraver Emery Walker, in London, at the turn of the 20th century. To cut a long story short, the two men disagreed about its use. As a result, Cobden-Sanderson threw 2,600lb of metal into the River Thames from Hammersmith Bridge. Now, after three years of research, making drawings based on the original source material, designer Robert Green has released a digital version of the lost metal Doves Press Font. This was made possible by the discovery in the River Thames 2013 of a portion of the original metal type. I know as a journalist I am probably more aware of typeface than your average reader. I’ve been involved in many magazine re-designs during my career, and the thing that gets people most excited during the process is the choice of font. It not only is the ‘handwriting’ of the design, it makes the design most easily recognisable, but it also has a dramatic effect on how easy it is to read a newspaper or magazine article. Get it wrong, and changes are made very rapidly before the reader complaints start to roll in. What newspaper do you
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Categories: Book design and Book Love.