Tuesday, 6 March 2018


A new publisher that is focused on resurrecting forgotten literature, new translations, and collections of letters, and including two Sylvia Townsend Warner books: it's nice that they want to appeal to me so very specifically. Handheld Press is off to a very strong start.

The first of their book series, the Handheld Classics, bring back forgotten or neglected books that deserve a second chance. Having just finished Una Silberrad's 'Desire', I can say that it's the sort of wonderful novel that Virago Modern Classics used to unearth before their great culling; a New Woman novel of unusual depth and texture.

Forthcoming is the amazing 'Kingdoms of Elfin', the spectacular late-career story collection from Sylvia Townsend Warner.

All the Handheld Classics have an attractive, clean design of a strong central image and lots of white space; the work of Nadja Guggi of Messrs Dash + Dare, with Handheld's editor/manager Kate Macdonald doing the image selection.

There are also the Handheld Research editions, non-fiction books likethe other Townsend Warner book noted above...

..and, excitingly, Handheld Modern, for new books. The first title, still forthcoming, is Danish author  Eddie Thomas Petersen's 'After the Death of Ellen Keldberg'.

This dramatic cover image brings to mind a personal hobbyhorse about nudity on book covers: it's almost invariably sexualised, and almost invariably aimed at men. Books for a general audience, even though mostly read by women, get naked women on the covers to appeal to men. Books marketed at a gay male audience often get naked men on the covers, also to appeal to men. Only romance novels get naked men aimed at women. You almost never see naked, non-sexualised adults on book covers, and a vanishing proportion of those will be images of men. All this is quite odd for such a female-run and -patronised business as publishing, but it's splendid to see Handheld break the trend with this startling and eye-catching design. Read more about it from Kate Macdonald here.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Over at the blog of the otherwise admirable Australian Book Designers Association, I am doing my party piece.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Penguin vs Peter Owen

I'm not sure what exactly has gone on behind the scenes, but a number of books long published, championed and supported by Peter Owen in their Modern Classics series seem to be slipping over, in paperback editions, to Penguin Modern Classics, with some very nice covers. However, Peter Owen seems to have retained the hardback rights, and are reprinting them as what they are calling Cased Classics. (See other examples of paperbacks at one publisher, hardbacks with another here and here.)

So here are the new/imminent Penguins...

..and here are the beautiful hardback Peter Owens, with diecut covers over fully illustrated boards (click for much bigger versions).

The moral of this story is that the much less attractive edition of The Ice Palace which I bought a couple of months ago, before I knew about any of these, was not a good investment.

(More Peter Owen coming soon: their beautiful and intriguing World Series books with Istros)

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Covers Containing Covers

A new addition to the collection of covers that contain and alter/vandalise other covers: My Ariel, the forthcoming (from Coach House Books, next month) collection of poetic responses to Plath's Ariel, by Sina Queyras...

..which of course riffs on the original Ariel cover.

There are several other covers which have done this. Mark Sarvas's Harry, Revised makes use of an old Penguin Classics Dumas cover, while Frank Portman's King Dork savages Salinger.


Then there's this Swedish editon of Aleksandar Hemon's Nowhere Man, which is the most straightforward version of this I've seen.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Book Covers That Do Not Feature Vaginas

These first two covers, both for forthcoming books, are the latest in a long line of book covers that definitely do not feature large images of vaginas.

These other covers also do not feature or suggest vaginas in any way.


UPDATE: The splendid Marly Youmans has found a much earlier example of this, from 1975.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Harvill, Hyman, Hénaff & MacLehose

At the end of the last century there was a wonderful series of books being published by what was then the Harvill imprint, under the editorship of Christopher MacLehose. In the end there were at least 230 in this series, most of them translations, all recognisable by the stripe-and-lion on the left-hand-side of the cover.

I bought as many as I could at the time, and have been collecting them ever since when I come across them second-hand. Here are the piles of those I've not yet read...

Sadly, Harvill was swallowed up by Random House, and most of the list left to slide out of print. Fortunately, however, Christopher MacLehose later set up a new imprint, MacLehose Press, much of which is dedicated to fiction in translation. I bought one of their books recently--Sophie Hénaff's Parisian crime novel The Awkward Squad, and found that it was labelled as the third 'Maclehose Edition'.

Investigating further, I discovered these MacLehose Editions seem to be the beginning of  new list of translated books which I hope will come to rival the original Harvill series. Some of the other titles, published and forthcoming, are these:

Back to the Hénaff: it has a lovely and distinctive cover drawn by one Miles Hyman, who has also provided covers for other MacLehose books...

..as well as for other publishers, both English and French. I knew Hyman's work from his excellent graphic-novel adaption/expansion of his grandmother's famous short story of group madness and cruelty: Shirley Jackson's 'The Lottery'.

Here are some of the book's pages (click to enlarge):

So, in short: old Harvills, MacLehose books, Miles Hyman's work--explore them all.