For Bookshelf this week we invited NoBrow to share five worthy books that define their shelves and inspired their own endeavours. Their choices reflect their independent sensibilities, love of print and a high quality product as well as their unerring eye for artistic and illustrative talent. It’s nice to see the influence in print behind a publishers own creative motivations and NoBrow have covered it all from the individual to the form of the book and the quality work of the people who published it.
Permagel Charles Burns
If it was only for the impressive brooding and menacing black and white illustrations in this book it would be understandable to single it out. But everything about this book chimes with some unspoken ideal of the pure, unadulterated, self-indulgent art book: its monumental size, thick coat of double hit black ink and intricately textured paper make it a delight to handle and even though it is a meagre 24 pages, to gaze upon any one page of Charles Burns’ artwork for less than the time it took him to draw it would be sacrilege to say the least, besides being nigh on impossible. The book is a refreshingly unpretentious monograph of what has to be one of our favourite artist’s work and for that we can’t help but place it firmly on our Bookshelf.
A Ladybird Third Picture Book Ethel and Harry Wingfield
There’s at least 5 of these books from the historically groundbreaking Ladybird book series, and this is by far our favourite. The illustrations are genius, so simple and beautiful you just fall in love with them at first sight. However, it’s worth saying that for this choice, we could pick out just about any of the hundreds of Ladybird books (and we’ve got most of them!) as to us they represent an awe-inspiring and largely unsung body of illustration work that deserves far more attention. The concept of this mass produced little hardback book is in its own right something to behold. Printed in their entirety on just one sheet of paper, each ladybird book is an exercise in thriftiness and efficiency; the economy of their production coupled with the quality of their output remains a beacon of inspiration for us in our own work. We consider them easily as iconic as the first Penguin paperbacks.
1960s Japanese Godzilla Annual
We don’t speak or read Japanese so can’t tell you the correct name or author of this book… but we love it all the same! The paintings of apocalyptic monster invasions in various and disparate settings (from the middle of the ocean to the peak of a volcano, from the centre of a bustling metropolis to an isolated Buddhist shrine) are pure illustrated confectionery, you can sense the artist was enjoying a much deserved break from drawing kittens and handbags in little girls’ annuals. But this book is also significant because it was the starting point for our foray into our now fairly well recognised spot colour process, as tucked away in the back of the book were a series of anatomical monster drawings that made stunning use of duo tone (black and orange) and were the starting point for the design and visual concept of our first eponymous issue.
Put simply: this is probably the most beautiful illustrated book we have ever seen! BlexBolex is someone we are delighted to have the opportunity to occasionally work with and this book is a shining testament to his incredible talent. The book has been translated into English, but we stick to the French version. Honestly, the European Ministry for Culture should have Blex on a retainer, somehow in this book, he manages to encapsulate the romantic ideals of continental life in all its beautiful colour – it may help that the artist has spent a number of years himself European city-hopping, leaving a trail of wide eyed admirers in his wake. If you haven’t seen it, come and buy it from our shop… (shameless plug!)
Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth Chris Ware
In a way this is a bit of an obvious choice and potentially a bit of a boring one. That’s only because this is one of the few graphic novels to achieve it’s rightful notoriety. If it wasn’t for this book I don’t think we’d be doing what we are doing now. Chris Ware set a bench mark for excellence, not only for graphic storytelling but also in book production which has scarce been surpassed to this day. This is an incredible book that is already a modern classic so it would be impossible to leave it out of our list.