Neverwhere

I am a huge Neil Gaiman fan. He was the author that first introduced me to urban fantasy, my favorite genre, and subsequently I found a name for the sort of fiction I wrote, and a clan of followers. This was all before Stardust was released on DVD and everyone and their mothers were reading Sandman. Not to say publicity isn’t good, but now he’s become kind of a bad writer (I hated Fragile Things, it was so boring. Not at all similar to Smoke and Mirrors). I think it’s really easy to fall back on popularity and put out whatever you can when you’re a megasuperstar. He really is the Thom Yorke of non-literary fiction these days.

That said, I’m doing Neverwhere today, which I’m sure most of you know, and for those who don’t, it follows this guy who stumbles across a strange girl named Door, who has magical powers and can open any door she comes across. She takes him to London Below, which is basically London, but underground and spooky. She has to find out who killed her family. They meet the Marquis of Carabas (who is my favorite character), the token character that employs dry wit to give a humorous edge to some scenes. It’s a great, great book. Do read it if you haven’t.

Neverwhere has been released so many times in the past fifteen or so years that the number of copies available (or not available) is pretty large. I guess he didn’t really boom in popularity until five or so years ago, so maybe that’s why.

BBC Books, 1996.

Avon, 1998.

William Morrow, 2003.

Review, 2005.

This one is a comic book, but nonetheless has furthered the Neverwhere franchise.

Titan Books, 2007. (Comic)

William Morrow, 2010. Special Edition, 1000 prints.

The latter edition was a special release, only sold for 2 days, and cost $200. All the copies were signed and were printed 7×10. It was the “author’s preferred” text, which I assume means the UK version (the US publisher cut out 2000 words). Kind of like a Director’s cut, I suppose (see post on film and publishing!)

And I’m not counting the foreign editions, of which many exist. I found a photo of the French version:

You can look at all the foreign additions here.

There’s also a DVD release and several audio CDs, though I won’t get into that here. I’ve never seen the Neverwhere miniseries, so any opinion I could give you would be highly uneducated.

Does anyone else love this book as much as I do?

Cheers!

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Kay Nielsen: Illustrations

This isn’t exactly about cover art, though some of Kay Nielsen’s drawings have graced the covers of picture books and storybook anthologies. Nielsen is an acclaimed illustrator from the earlier part of the 20th century.

I’ve had a copy of East of the Sun and West of the Moon, illustrated by Nielsen, since childhood. I was intrigued by his style and wanted to see more of his work after I revisited the book this week. This led to an overly long time spent researching folktale illustrations (hey, I guess that would be useful for publishing…?), especially Norwegian ones.

I’m half Norwegian, and have found myself very interested in my roots lately. Nielsen is Danish, but he has done plenty of work on Norwegian folktales. He died in poverty–a sad ending for someone so talented. I find it discouraging that so many creative visionaries find themselves in less than desirable circumstances at their deaths (with notable exceptions, of course, such as Walt Disney).

What’s even more discouraging is that this book now sells for near $40,000, and the author sees none of the profits (well, that would be hard since he’s been dead for years, but you know what I mean).

Here’s a nice biography of the illustrator. And here’s a link to the online version of the book, posted by Project Gutenberg . Gotta love them.

Some illustrations from East of the Sun and West of the Moon, by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Engebretsen Moe, published 1914 by Hodder & Stoughton:

“'Well, mind and hold tight by my shaggy coat, and then there’s nothing to fear,' said the Bear, so she rode a long, long way." --East of the Sun, West of the Moon
"Then he coaxed her down and took her home." --The Lassie and her Godmother
"And then she lay on a little green patch in the midst of the gloomy thick wood." -- East of the Sun, West of the Moon
The Three Princesses in the Blue Mountain
“'You’ll come to three Princesses, whom you will see standing in the earth up to their necks, with only their heads out.'” --The Three Princesses of Whiteland

And an illustration not from the collection:

Nielsen's sketch for the Little Mermaid (Disney)

Now, finally, the actual book. The original edition from 1914:

Folio released a new edition of the book in 2000.

My version (1977, Dover):

Apparently it’s worth around $200…I guess we’ll be keeping that one. Maybe in the year 2050 we’ll be able to sell the book as an artifact.

Thanks for reading! Cheers!

Candide

Everyone’s favorite idiot, Candide, is a character in another of the most reissued books of all time. I’m sure Voltaire would have something witty to say about each of these editions.

First, the original. This first edition was issued in 1759, by Cramer. Prints were quickly copied and made into the knock-off “17 editions” of Candide. Silly counterfeiters.

This is a fairly nondescript edition from 1884, issued by Routledge.

This is my second favorite edition, and if I had $650 to throw around, I’d buy it immediately. It’s a flash image and I couldn’t find a photo of it anywhere else, so if you want, you can follow the link. It’s from 1928, by Nilsson.

Then Random House issued this reprint in 1928, with illustrations by Rockwell Kent:

That illustration is not for the faint of heart.

Random House reissued this print in 1975. Little changed, so I guess it sold well.

Then we have my favorite one: The Folio Society’s edition. It sold for $375.00 and only 1000 copies were printed. For shame. Though I’m not sure how I would feel about acquiring a $375.00 version of a work I could get for $5.00 from Dover Classics.

Speaking of which, here’s my copy, the infamously ugly Dover Classics edition from 1991.

I hate that version. What’s with the weird marbled effect on the cover? Not to mention the actual contents of the book. What a shoddy translation. Don’t buy this one. Go for either of these two:

Penguin Classics from 2005 and 2009 respectively.

And this is only a selection. There are loads of other versions. Too many, I think, for the average reader. How does one know what translation will be accurate? Each of these touts itself as an informative edition. The Dover one certainly wasn’t.

If anyone knows someone at Europa, put in a good word for me! I’m applying for their winter internship. Internships seem to be just as competitive as jobs now. Hopefully I’ll get one…

Cheers!

The Blue Fairy Book

Right now, I’m working on a feature-length screenplay adaptation of the fable Three Princesses in the Blue Mountain, one of my favorite childhood stories. I highly recommend you follow the link and read it, as it’s one of those fables you just can’t help but like. I was hopeful to find the story in another Norwegian anthology, but I had trouble locating a decent one. The search eventually led me to one of the best fairytale collections of all time (I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about): The Blue Fairy Book, by Andrew Lang.

Andrew Lang has written a ton of fairy books, all different colors (there’s even an olive fairy book!), all with collected short fables from around the world. I wish I had this when I was little (we had a Norwegian collection that only contained four longer fairy tales and the Hans Christian Anderson collection)!

I thought that since I spend roughly five hours a day pouring over a fairytale, it would be nice to do a quick post about the beautiful cover art that has adorned Andrew Lang’s Blue Fairy Book over the decades.

This is the original 1889 edition, published by Longmans, Green, and Co of London. Henry Justice Ford did the illustrations (one from East of the Sun, West of the Moon, another short Norwegian fairytale, is at the bottom of the post).

 

 

 

 

This is followed by the David Mckay edition of 1921. Slightly less whimsical and a bit more cartoonish, but still cute. I prefer the original, but who doesn’t? Usually the first editions are always the most tasteful.

 

 

 

 

Then we have the Dover Classics edition from 1965. This one is pretty blah. It’s boring and the color blue they chose is a bit too pale.

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, there’s the 2003 edition from Folio of London. I really like this one. It is bound in the style of the 1890s and tries to imitate the feeling of the original illustrations. I prefer this color blue (a little less cornflower) than that of the Dover version. I also really like the details on the spine.

 

 

Not to mention the interior! The illustrations are gorgeous.

Henry Justice Ford's illustration from the 1889 version

I love fairytales. Now it’s off to edit my own (which, by the way, takes place in Nazi-era Norway and involves soldiers and wolves. It promises to be highly entertaining). Cheers!

Bella’s Favorite Books

I find this marketing campaign despicable, but incredibly effective:

HarperCollins Teen released new editions of three old classics way back in 2009, each of which was mentioned in Twilight as one of Bella’s favorite books (if you’ve missed out on the Twilight phenomenon, you must live under a rock, so I’ll let you dust the dirt off your laptop and find out about it elsewhere). I don’t know about you, but I was rather saddened to see three solid classics adorned with blatant Twilight-knock-off covers.

It’s not that they’re badly done, because really, they’re not. If you think about it from the point of view of a publicity agent, this is actually a really smart move. They’re basically marketing these three books as a continuation of the Twilight series–the blurb on the front of P&P says, “The love that started it all,” which to me implies that this is supposed to be a prelude to Bella/Edward’s relationship, and that these two novels have common ground. Of course, anyone who has read P&P knows that Darcy and Edward are nothing alike and that Bella and Elizabeth aren’t either, but the average teen probably hasn’t read it.

I’m sure Harper Collins Teen claims that these covers will induce more children to read, but really, if it takes a marketing scheme based on one of the most overrated books in existence (not to mention one of the most flawed and poorly written), then I don’t think there’s much hope for the masses of the coming generations.

Of course, I hope that’s not true. I like to think that reading will continue to be a staple of everyday life for the next few centuries, and that ideas will continue to spread through the written word. Popular culture is extinguishing my hope for this (by the way, have you looked at children’s handwriting these days? Thanks to computers, they have the worst penmanship I’ve ever seen) but I do see the point behind this campaign.

“Love never dies”? Really? And “The original forbidden love”? Spare me.

Well Harper Collins, I will commend you. I hope that entices you to read over my application to be your editorial assistant, despite the fact I just disparaged your company.

Cheers and have a good Saturday!

First Impressions

Hello world.

This is my first blog ever. I’m a late bloomer. It seems like everyone who writes has a blog now, so I thought of something to say and I joined in.

I’m an uber-nerd to an unimaginable extent. I love everything the cool kids are not supposed to–Star Trek, research, math rock, and, of course, books. Which is how I will be able to write, every day, about the beautiful art of bookmaking.

This lovely blog will be dedicated to the evolution of cover art. I’m going to post various editions of one book all the way until (you guessed it) 2011, starting with its original edition. You will also get a clever little post title that will usually be some kind of literary joke (First Impressions, get it, Austen fans?). I love cover art and dabble in the art trade myself, but don’t expect a critical analysis of the binding or the reams, I’m far more interested in how books are marketed nowadays compared to how they were marketed back when they were first released. Usually I’ll be featuring books that we consider classics, simply because they have a longer history, and thus, more editions.

I’ll post a few of my favorite book covers.

EP Dutton, 1927
George Allen, 1894
Penguin, 2010
Penguin Classics, 2004
Vintage Contemporaries, 2008
Vintage International, 1997
Harper Perennial, 2003
Vintage Classics, 2010