Archive for the ‘Book design’ Category

So. Three months later than planned*, I’m posting some of the writings that padded out the quieter moments of my family jaunt to visit friends in Spain. In (cringe) October. Immediate I am most definitely not. And I wonder why I just can’t take to Twitter…

My introduction to the great Sebastian Faulks

Alan Bennett: Mum's quiet-time companion

Of late, Alan Bennett has come to enjoy an almost godfather-like status in our family. He pops in (well, into conversation) during most of our gatherings – my Christmas 2008 gift to mum was a signed copy of his The Uncommon Reader – delivering advice and regaling tales of old Yorkshire and his own ‘mam’.

As well as Seb Faulks, I had my head buried in Jim Cartwright’s Road, devouring lines in preparation for November’s run of the play at Bath’s Rondo Theatre while Malaga’s insects devoured me.

Between The Rotters' Club's covers: my brother's brand of escapism

And of course we were surrounded by Spanish writing. While we tried our darndest to piece together shameful half-phrases and exclamations, the brilliant typography and stunning layouts (not to mention the illiterates’ joy, the pictures) punched through our linguistic ignorance. Viva municipal warnings!

Room 4: Aspirational apartment lit (well, that's what the photos suggested)

* In my defence I have been relearning to ride a bike and re-reading Jacob’s Room. Productive, no?

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Retro pattern fiends and curtain makers rejoice! Those lovely people at the Victoria & Albert Museum have thrown open their archives of prints, wallpapers and textiles and laid the dusted-down innards bare in the V&A Pattern book series. The first four installments are published this month.

These four titles cover (pictured above, L-R) the mind-boggling creations of  ‘Digital Pioneers’, the stunning style of ‘The Fifties’, exotic and sensuous ‘Indian Florals’ and the eye-popping patterns *swoon* of ‘William Morris‘.

William Morris's 'Single Stem' print

William Morris's 'Single Stem' print

The first to find its way into my loving arms (and my disc drive – each book is accompanied by a CD of all the images featured in it) will surely be the tome of Morris’s treasure. All those muted twisted thistles and lolloping leaves remind me of childhood mornings, lying in bed in my grandparents’ spare room and visually picking apart the gradually brightening patterns printed on the curtains while waiting for the signal (the bright tinkle of the bell on Sian the Cairn Terrier’s collar) that it was no longer too early to get up, trot downstairs and empty the contents of the Fimo box out on the kitchen table.

One of the V&A's Indian Patterns

One of the V&A's Indian Patterns

Check out the chintz for yourself with the limited-edition boxed set for £30 (the books are available individually for £7.99) from the new V&A Bookshop, the V&A Museum’s shop or online.

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I may not be very good at staying strictly on topic these days, but when I keep stumbling upon brilliant things such as Littlepixel‘s re-imagining of classic album sleeves as Pelican book covers to tell you about, can you blame me?

Primal ScreamSleeperNew OrderAnd these are just my picks of the 32-strong bunch of ‘covers’ posted on Littlepixel’s Flickr. Busy man, that. But – I know, I know – enough of the pretty electronic picture distractions. More actual, page-flippable books, shops to find them and people who keep them coming up…

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My addiction to the musty whiff of a well-loved book and the hiss of a turning page means that I detest – de-test – being sensually swindled by having to read more than about 250 words through a screen. If you’re anything like me, you’ll share my horror at this downright catastrophe:


The iLiad: The literary equivalent of a microwave burger

The iLiad: The microwave burger of the book world

50 pre-programmed ‘books’, A5(ish) format, at £399 – behold the (*ahem*) iLiad Electronic Reader. So many questions: can I get it in paperback? Can I offer it up for BookCrossing? When I’m shipwrecked on a desert island, can I read/build a fire with/eat my 50 books? These, of course, are the everyday concerns of your average dog-earing culprit. And the answer to each is a pixelated NO. What a letdown. And it appears that the customers of Borders feel the same, according to The Independent.

Round 1 to the paper pushers, then. Round 2 – the struggle to save the nation’s libraries, as reported in The Guardian – is currently being hard-fought in the modern-day trenches that masquerade as library isles and local government corridors, most publicly by journalist Rachel Cooke, who wrote a great article for yesterday’s Observer. A damn good read, even if it does clock in on the wrong side of 250 words for my screenphobic peepers to contend with. Best get practising my library card quick-draw, then…

(Word count: 234. Phew)

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Faber Finds
The folks at Faber do it again: swelling the ranks of the Faber Finds imprint – which aims to bring lost classics and the works of great but forgotten authors back into readers’ hands – come the Mass Observation books, which documented the daily ups, downs and intimate mundanities of civilians over three decades from 1937.

The first title to be exhumed by Faber is May the Twelfth, an anthology of accounts of some of the people to have experienced the sights, sounds, and smells of the crowded London streets on the day of King George VI’s Coronation in 1937. This was originally the first book in the Mass Observations series, which totaled 25 titles, of which Faber will be putting 11 back on bookshop shelves. The other titles in the collection touch on everything from the annual Bolton Cow’s Head Festival and impromptu dancing of the Lambeth Walk in London parks to reports on the nation’s morale during WWII. And they look rather dashing, too, hmmm?

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WalcotMart books and shakers

WalcotMart shop

WalcotMart - book about nothing


Pavement arrow

Ladybird Books shelf

Modern Toss


The first ever ‘Discovery of the Week’ crown is donned by Bath’s WalcotMart and its Artists’ Book Fair, timed to coincide with the closing weekend of the Bath Literature Festival.


The shop is stunning (keep your ears to the cobbles – otherwise known as WalcotMart’s Facebook group – for news of music, film and Subutteo football soirees) and the team who run it are fab (although my being distracted by a teapot necklace meant that I forgot to ask their names. Everything stops for tea…)

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Penguin's 150th Anniversary edition of Darwin's classic

Penguin's 150th Anniversary edition of Darwin's classic

Damien Hirst has come a long way since he presented Charles Saatchi with a maggot-infested cow’s head as a graduate; his painting ‘The Human Skull in Space’ is now fronting Penguin Classics’ 150th Anniversary reprint of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

In Hirst’s recent interview with The Guardian, Hirst attributed his obsession with natural history and penchant for creative controversy to everyone’s favourite fossil collector.

“I was given a paperback copy of On the Origin of Species many years ago by a friend and I loved it,” Hirst tells The Guardian, “especially the contentious aspects of it. Being brought up a Catholic and questioning the nonsensical creation theory, it was exciting.”

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