Continuing with their excellent series of redesigned and newly illustrated classics, the latest Four Corners Books Familiars is the high-adventure The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope. The project came to be after illustrator Mireille Fauchon answered an open submission for a suggested volume to reissue. She chose one of her favourites – “an archetypal swashbuckler” with themes that have lots of illustrative potential like artifice and the double – and together with a custom typeface courtesy of John Morgan, her efforts to bring to life the fictive European country of Ruritania are now a bound reality.
We caught up with Mireille who very kindly answered a few questions about Zenda and provided us with some lovely illustrative insights into the content of the book…
What can you tell us about your process for illustrating a book, especially one that you love?
Working on the book certainly was daunting at times as is the process of working on any project you feel a sense of authorship for. The Prisoner of Zenda is a novel from my childhood and I am unashamedly nostalgic and sentimental when it comes to books so during any times of self doubt I made sure to remind myself of what a joy it is to have the opportunity to produce a piece of work you truly believe deserves to be made and how proud I am to be ever bound to it.
After your submission was selected, what was the process like working with Four Corners and the John Morgan studio?
A pleasure, there has always been a very easy dialogue between us. As well as producing the illustrations I had quite clear ideas about the overall aesthetic and there is great comfort in knowing the people you are working with share your sense of humour and support what you are trying to achieve. Four Corners and all those who work with them have a deep respect for the work they produce so I always had complete trust that right decisions would be made.
As well as your own illustrations, there is collected imagery that belie the fiction of the book, how and where did you go about collecting these images?
Some bits I already owned and showed Four Corner as part of my original proposal to give an idea of what I intended. While we had a rough list of what we wanted to feature a lot was left to chance and much of the found imagery actually came from Danish second-hand bookstores. If I felt something had a Ruritanian flavour I nabbed it. I have always liked the idea of the old photographs particularly the portraits having existed for all that time waiting to be found by me to fulfil their ultimate purpose – to illustrate The Prisoner of Zenda.