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Authors: Jane Austen, E.M. Forster, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë
Designer: Megan Wilson
Illustrators: All Jane Austen: N. Heideloff's "Gallery of Fashion" (I checked, and these are sketches of English fashion, not German!);
Wuthering Heights: Philip Taaffe, Gagosian Gallery;
Jane Eyre: Katherine Wolkoff, Art + Commerce;
Room with a View: C. F. A Voysey, Victoria & Albert Museum;
Howards End: Anna Maria Garthwaite, Victoria & Albert Museum;
Where Angels Fear to Tread: Traditional Florentine.
I talked to Megan a month or so ago about featuring some of her work, and she wanted to share this great series with us. I think the design of this series is best viewed in light of Megan's last paragraph. Great work Megan!
We began the re-launch of Vintage Classics with the 6 Jane Austen novels. The idea was to get a piece of the pie, since the books are public domain and there was a Jane Austen season coming up on Masterpiece Theater. I went to the book store and looked at all the Austen packages, and I found that they were uniformly serious, dull and dark. In my opinion, Jane Austen writes social satire: Emma is an outright comedy, whilst the others are very lively throughout. If Clueless and Bridget Jones were based on Jane Austen novels then why did the books look so depressing?
I felt the need to find art that did not involve dusty old oil paintings, and to avoid a very structured grid effect. These books are a gift: you've got the title and the author--no quotes, author of lines, award stickers etc
so it seemed much more fun to keep the look as flexible as possible. John Gall did feel, however, that there should be one small element to link the Classics on the front and spine, so we came up with the bunting down the side which wraps onto the spine, a small nod to Everyman's Library, from whom were borrowing the texts.
I came upon some fashion illustrations from the time period which had a very light, almost Edward Gorey touch; utterly charming whilst picking up on some
of the social details with which Jane is quite pre-occupied. The overall palette of these illustrations was very light so we decided to keep that as the other unifying factor for the series.
These books were quite successful, so we then moved on to the Brontës. Wuthering Heights is such a raw and contemporary novel and the star of the book is really nature herself, who crashes into every scene. Jane Eyre, whilst a bit more sedate is another story which is endlessly popular and has been re-invented several times (eg The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier). Luckily I found a wild fern painting by Philip Taaffe, of the Gagosian Gallery, and the most beautiful silhouette photograph by Katherine Wolkoff, which is obviously a riff on the art of the day. Yes her hair's a mess, but poor Jane is reduced to rags in the book. We then moved on to E. M. Forster, using scraps of modern looking yet antique textiles, which I hoped would reflect Forster's more philosophical themes. I am now working on F. Scott Fitzgerald about whom I could go on at length but won't.
Because this is an already very crowded market, we have competitively priced the Classics, so the only real dilemma for the book buyer is choosing which book to judge by its cover.
*Comment on this project
6.22.09 // Brandon Hill said:Wow, I love the detailed hair and the lack of refinement from what we normally have seen with period silhouettes like these. Fantastic covers.
6.25.09 // Ricardo Cordoba said:I love the Jane Eyre cover. Megan Wilson's work has this very elegant simplicity... Some of my favorites are her covers for Richard Yates, Dashiell Hammett, W.H. Auden and Noël Coward. Thanks for the article!
6.29.09 // Ian said:Too beautiful. I absolutely love the little multicolor triangle device used to tie the series together on the left and spine. Very simple but so so effective.