Thursday, 2 July 2009

Icy

I'm part way through Sarah Moss's Cold Earth (published by Granta), a possibly post-apocalyptic tale about a bunch of grad students trapped on an archaeological dig in remote Greenland, while the rest of the world seems to be succumbing to a horrible super-virus. It's well done so far, but having the first 100 pages narrated by a convincingly drawn neurotic pain in the arse who it's difficult to want to spend time with may have been a bit of a tactical mistake on the author's part.

In any case, it's the cover I'm here to talk about.



Designed by Mark Swan, it has extra detail you can't see from this scan--spot-varnished root patterns growing out across the white from the central text block. Even better is the way that the edges of the pages are dyed a cyanotic blue.


This means that, as you read, each page has the visual effect of a slab of white ice rising up from an cold, clear blue sea.

I can't think of any other recently published book that has had page edges dyed in this way, but it's a surprisingly effective design element.

UPDATE: Alan Trotter informs me that "Scarlett Thomas' The End of Mr Y and PopCo have their pages dyed like this (black and blue, respectively)." (UPDATE 2: See his picture here.) And Thomas has a blurb on the front of this book. It's a dyed-page-edge conspiracy!

UPDATE 3: John Self brings back some causticity to this post in his comment, but also tells me that "Andrew thingy's [Davidson] The Gargoyle had black-edged pages hardback, and Tim Willocks' The Religion had red ones."

UPDATE 4: OK, obviously this is not as rare as I thought. Now Tom of book designers The Parish points out the design on Charlie Higson's Hurricane Gold: "The hardback ... also has gilded edges, and they are in gold. With nice embossing on gold foil on the cover, it's all gold!" And it is:

17 comments:

Ian Shimkoviak said...

I love gilded pages...

kaitlinpaigeallen said...

I really love the skeleton behind the words. So eerie.

Alan said...

Scarlett Thomas' The End of Mr Y and PopCo have their pages dyed like this (black and blue, respectively). It is a lovely technique.

JRSM said...

That's cool--and Scarlett Thomas is quoted on the front of Moss's book! See how it all fits together?

Alan said...

I hadn't noticed that! Well, if it is a conspiracy, at least it's a pretty one: http://twitpic.com/953pc

John Self said...

Andrew thingy's The Gargoyle had black-edged pages hardback, and Tim Willocks' The Religion had red ones.

I have to say that I always, always hate this design feature. I saw the Sarah Moss book in my local store and when I pulled it out to look (because the cover is nice), and saw the blue edges, I wondered why a kids' book had been put among the adult fiction.

[/meldrew]

JRSM said...

Alan and John: I'll add that info to the post. Obviously this design element is more common than I thought. I wonder if I hadn't spotted it earlier because some of these books you've mentioned had their Australian editions published locally by cheap-arse printers who wouldn't replicate the colour. Though John would approve of that.

Charles Lambert said...

Well, John got here first, and said both of the things I'd intended to say, (though I might have spared Davidson the 'thingy'). I just thought I'd share this with you.

umlaut said...

I spotted recently that The Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd - who I'm sure needs little introduction here - has an innovative (but fairly odd) take on this.

I can't find any pictures online, but the paperback's page edges are printed so that two separate phrases (key to the story) are revealed depending on which way you tilt them.

Great idea, although it doesn't quite work in the execution - sadly, the phrases aren't quite legible without quite a bit of squinting!

JRSM said...

Charles: He could use it to make his name more memorable--Andrew 'Thingy' Davidson has a certain ring.

Umlaut: I'd forgotten about the Chip Kidd. You're right about the execution--it was only once I'd read the book that I realised what the text was meant to say. Nice idea, though.

John Self said...

Heheh - Davidson! That's it!

The Chip Kidd reminds me of the Alex Williamson illustrated edition of Nineteen Eighty Four published by Secker and Warburg in hardback in 1999 (for the 50th anniversary) - it had coloured 'tabs' on the page edges which, if you fanned the pages, spelt BIG BROTHER.

tom/tom@the-parish.com said...

The hardback for Hurricane Gold by Charlie Higson also has guilded edges, and they are in gold. With nice embossing on gold foil on the cover, it's all gold!

JRSM said...

It looks like a chunk of bullion! Nice.

Georgie George said...

Really want to read that book by the woman who had the affair with cyril connolly. Where did you pick it up? Shall have to put together a proper list of books I wish to read and make efforts to locate copies of them... maybe it could be a competition!

JRSM said...

Hey, George: if the books you're after are in print, the best place is almost always the Book Depository. For the book you're talking about, try http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9781844081240/The-Old-Man-and-Me for a copy for about $14, or http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9781590173176/The-Old-Man-and-Me for a $17 version with the nicer cover.

Jelly said...

The new Twilight series has bright red dyed page edges (My friends all say it looks really tacky) and the new Wicked also has bright green dyed page edges which looks really really cool.

JRSM said...

Bright green could work really well--I must seek that out.