Illustrated Book Design

I have been encouraged to put together a list of the illustrated books whose design I most admire.   I have enjoyed the challenge.   This is my list:-

1.  I would choose my early paperback edition of Rings of Saturn, but I can’t locate my copy, so will have to opt for the first edition of Austerlitz, when Sebald switched to being published by Hamish Hamilton.   The typographic designer isn’t credited, but I assume it was Michael Mitchell, the dentist who established Libanus Press in a house on the Green at Marlborough and was responsible for the distinctive combination of text and black-and-white illustration which is so important to the experience of reading Sebald.

2.  Edmund de Waal, The White Road.   This is a Sebaldian combination of text and black-and white illustration, designed by John Morgan, who worked for Derek Birdsall.   It’s a typographically very intelligent book, using a mixture of an elongated font and italics (Morgan also does all the graphics for David Chipperfield).

3.  Antony Gormley, On Sculpture.   Thames and Hudson have been producing very beautiful books recently.   I first noticed a different order of attention to quality of typography and layout in Alexandra Harris’s Romantic Moderns.   Gormley’s book of his lectures and broadcasts was designed by Jesse Holborn, who I assume is related to Mark Holborn who edited the book.

4.  Orlando Gough’s Recipe Book.   This was published in 2012 by Toast.   I assume it was designed by Jamie Seaton, the proprietor of Toast who has a good eye for design and typography.

5.  The Cereal Guide to London.   I’m an admirer of the layout of books produced by Cereal, a company based in Bristol.   The designer is Rich Stapleton, who was trained in engineering and product design and is one half of the duo who established Cereal.

6.  Eating With The Eyes by Harry Pearce.   More photography than text, but both text and photography beautifully laid out by Harry Pearce of Pentagram and published by Unit Editions.

7.  The Company of Artists:  The Origin of the Royal Academy of Arts in London.   This was designed, incredibly beautifully, by Derek Birdsall who has now retired to Deal.   He’s the maestro.

8.  Tess Jaray, The Blue Cupboard.   I haven’t got a copy in front of me (my books have been shipped to Bedford), but I remember being very admiring of the design and layout which was done by her daughter, Georgia Vaux.

I realise that the great majority of these books, Sebald apart, are recent, which suggests a renaissance in book design and typography.   I also notice that designers and typefaces are too often not credited.

Am happy to receive other nominations.


7 thoughts on “Illustrated Book Design

  1. Toast / Jamie Seaton, Pentagram, Birdsall , Georgia Vaux – great choices. We do indeed live in an excellent period of Design. Yale (Gillian Malpass) also consistently good.

  2. Toshio Kusamitsu says:

    I would add to your list the one you have already read: Ian Bostridge, Schubert’s Winter Journey Anatomy of an Obsession

  3. Susie Blundell says:

    Good choices – I think of Childrens’ books I loved Edward Ardizzone’s illustrations and Arthur Rackham – I have a wonderful illustrated copy of Aesops Fables and a book onWagner’s Ring Cycle which really enhance the stories.

  4. Amanda Kinsman says:

    Another F&F book which works beautifully is Fiona MacCarthy’s Eric Gill (1989). I think Alain de Botton’s books, for example Status Anxiety, Hamish Hamilton, are pleasing with a playful use of illustrations.

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