Bookshelf this week is Anna Gerber and Britt Iversen of Visual Editions, they select five books from a publishing perspective and give an insight into their own book printing capers. They like to do things a little differently when it comes to their own works, for example a concrete reinterpretation of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, or the die-cut story Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer, literally carved out of another book. They set store by books that have worth as an object and enhance a text, and their picks this week reflect that very nicely…
“Before we talk through the books we hang onto in our studio, we wanted to tell you about the bookshelf we keep our books on. Because where we keep our books is just as important as where we read them and what they are. So our studio bookshelf is a palette bookshelf. It’s literally a few holes cut into a wooden palette, that the guys at Birch Studio made when they were still studying Typographics at LCC. They were going to chuck it out, we asked if we could have it and they were more than happy to hand it over. It’s probably the least space-efficient bookshelf we’ll ever have, but efficiency is over-rated anyway and we love it.”
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman Laurence Sterne
This book was first published in the late 18th century in nine volumes. It is arguably the first example of what we call “visual writing”. We think of visual writing as writing that uses visual devices in some way to help tell the story. The term is something we made up, but has a long, rich heritage and most probably starts with Shandy. Sterne used all sorts of devices like a black page to show a character’s death, squiggles to show sword movements, plenty of different length dashes and astericks to give the writing a dynamic flow and rythmn. This was the first book we published, beautifully designed and re-imagined by the talented women at A Practice for Everyday Life and introduced by Will Self. Here are just a few of the many older editions of the book, all of which had lost their lustre along the way.
Radioactive and Century Girl Lauren Redniss
Jonathan Safran Foer told us about Lauren Redniss and her work and we’ve had a major crush on her ever since. Redniss is an image-maker and writer based in New York. When she’s not teaching at Parson’s, she’s delving deeply into extraordinary women’s lives and histories. Researching them extensively and visually writing their stories. The stories are very much factually driven, but the way they are written is light, almost whimsical and illustrated in a way that makes it impossible to disentangle the writing from the illustrations. Radioactive is Redniss’s latest book, about Marie Curie, and even has a glow in the dark cover. How cool is that?
Index Book Andy Warhol
This book, which is so rare and hard to come by these days, we feel super lucky to have been loaned a copy, was first published in 1967. It opens with a quote that sets the tone for the book perfectly: “Well, Andy loves mistakes, this wasn’t rehearsed.” The book, called a “children’s book for hipsters”, is full of pop-ups, pull-outs, fold-outs and even a baloon (though that’s missing from our copy). It’s a source of inspiration for us: seeing different fun ways that paper and books can still be pushed and experienced.
Woman’s World Graham Rawle
Here is a book that looks like a ransom note. The only thing is it’s a book, not a note. Rawle “wrote” the whole of Woman’s World by using text he had cut out from 1950s women’s magazines. Even the page numbers are cut out. It’s not the easiest book to read, but we admire the skill, craft and patience it must have taken to write and design a book like this. We’ve heard it’s also being made into a film, we just hope they stay faithful to the book’s original vision.
Politics Adam Thirlwell
We’re cheating a little bit here, because our copy of this book isn’t actually on our studio bookshelf, though a well worn copy is at home and we’re in early talks with Adam about doing a book together, so we couldn’t resist including it here. Politics is Thirlwell’s first novel which came out in 2003. As the BBC said at the time, it’s actually not really about Politics at all, but about all sex. Which is true. It’s a funny book that’s written with so much energy and guts and the first time that Adam started to use what we endearingly call his “Ferris Bueller” moments. Skillfull moments when the narrator suddenly “turns” to the reader and talks to him/her in the same way that Ferris Bueller turned to the camera. Jolts you out of your seat in the very best way. Oh and the sex ain’t too bad either.
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