Second Round: A Canticle For Leibowitz (Miller)
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I think this great classic of post-apocalyptic fiction deserves a fine press edition. I envision the book printed octavo, on very good, but not extravagant paper, to make bulk and cost manageable. No illustrations, but prominent drop capitals at the chapter heads, decorated whimsically with elements from the text. Bound in a style consistent with a medieval psalter, with the Hebrew “לץ” embossed on the upper board. Blueprint endpapers, of course!
This proposal received 56 yes votes in the first round.
The proposer has been notified of this discussion thread, and may receive help or advice in expanding the proposal.
This may get confusing, as another Canticle proposal also made the cut for this round. While that proposal is interesting as well, I think there are fundamental differences in the two approaches. I believe that I'm proposing a somewhat more understated treatment, with a set of parameters that will make it (hopefully) not too challenging to produce or pay for. Let me get the ball rolling:
Format: I prefer smaller books that are comfortable in the hand while reading. I like the octavo format that Thornwillow typically uses, but this is a longer work, which might result in too thick a volume at that scale. So I'm thinking a taller octavo for this one, something on the order of 7x11 inches like Arete and No Reply used for their recent Sherlock Holmes offerings. That should also (I hope) allow use of a type size large enough for comfortable reading. I think a slightly unusual aspect ratio would also help signal a retro aesthetic (i.e., medieval psalter) without resorting to extravagant materials or effects.
Paper: I'm a paper-lover, gotta admit it! I love the feel, the sound, the way the surface and edge looks. Sometimes I forget to keep reading while I pause to fondle the page. But that doesn't necessarily mean a super-thick, handmade sheet -- again, I'd like to keep the cost and the girth of the book reasonable. Maybe a good mould-made paper from Arches or Magnani (like Tallone uses for the "standard" state of many of their books)?
I recently discovered an amazing paper, that the Gehenna Press used for Burns' The Jolly Beggars. It's hand-made from Amalfi, but incredibly thin and smooth; and, despite being thin, it's quite opaque enough to support the press' razor-sharp, medium-bite printing. I don't know if anything like that is available today, but it might make a longer work more manageable in thickness.
Whatever the source, I'll be disappointed to have cut/trimmed fore and bottom edges -- gotta love a nice deckle!
Type: I love the Romanee type that Allen Press used for Rappaccini's Daughter, and the Van Dijck types they used for their Pushkin. (The Van Dijck type used for the LEC Secret Sharer is also great.) I also love the Dante (Mardersteig?) typeface used by Officina Bodoni, as well as by the Chester River Press in their Heart of Darkness. Also pretty good: the Bembo type used by Pyracantha Press for their Venus & Adonis, and the Jenson type that Thornwillow used for Shakespeare's Sonnets and other publications.
Printing: I'd like a medium bite to the printing, given the expected thickness of the paper and relatively small type size. I'd want it to be tactile, without degrading the reading experience.
Decorations: I don't think illustrations, per se, are called for here. Large drop-capitals, in blueprint blue, decorated with line drawings that pick up some narrative element from the chapter (comical or somber as appropriate). The LEC edition of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is one example, though I'm envisioning something even less elaborate that that (smaller scale, no gold leaf, etc.).
Binding: In my mind's eye, I see a full morocco binding with heavy raised bands, but maybe a similar effect could be achieved with less costly materials -- suggestions?
Also, I envision having the Hebrew letters “לץ” (scrawled on a rock by Miller's wandering Jew for Brother Francis in chapter 1, as an abbreviation of "Leibowitz" or the Hebrew word for "fool") either embossed or blind-stamped on the front cover. And I think having blueprint end-papers is a must-have for this edition. A gilt top-edge would be a nice enhancement, as would a slipcase with sides matching the end-papers.
Extras: I haven't considered whether an introductory essay could be reprinted or commissioned for this edition, and I'm not wedded to the idea, but it would definitely be an enhancement.
Edit: Of course, polarization of approaches increases differentiation....
This doesn't solve the design aspect of the cover, but could provide some additional interest and variety to whatever is settled on. And there's something science-fiction-y about plant leathers, as though they are cured triffid hide.
>14 kermaier: I thought about leather over wood the first time you mentioned psalters. Those call to mind baroque covers with relief details and ornaments, and often leather over a wooden substrate is the perfect medium for such a design. It would have to be well designed to work in a slipcase, perhaps a solander makes more sense in this case?
If the proposer went that direction, I think a “desert psalter” might narrowly edge out the “medieval manuscript” concept of the other proposal.
I'm not a particular fan of simulated materials either, but I see these plant leathers as a novel material in their own right. There's an element of the uncanny when handling a material that comes from an entirely different kingdom on the tree of life from what it represents. And I do like the suggestion from NathanOv that cactus ties in thematically with the work.
But at the end of the day these materials are unknown quantities and we probably don't want to be experimenting with them until they are proven, unless their use is in a component of the book which has some latitude regarding durability concerns. Still, it would be fun to look into these later down the line.
At the moment, I'm leaning towards quarter-morocco with wooden boards. And I'd be interested in exploring the feasibility of CNC laser-cutting the Hebrew letters into the surface of the wood.
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