So I as up in London today, checking out a museum exhibition on Death at the Welcome Collection (I wasn’t allowed to take photos but a few pics here for anyone interested) and I thought I might pop into the Piccadilly branch of Waterstone’s while I was there. It’s the largest bookshop in Europe. Instead of a coffee shop it has a cocktail bar and restaurant. To be honest, I’m not sure I like it – too much open space and order and display tables it doesn’t feel…booky enough and the bar was way too dimly lit for my rubbish eyes to even attempt to sit down with a drink and read my book. But it did have an independent publishers section and a few display tables focusing almost solely on foreign and translated fiction – so it was a good way to browse for books I probably wouldn’t see at all in other shops.
Anyways, as I was browsing the rather large classics section a few rather striking book covers caught my eye – and obviously the eye of the employee responsible for the classics section because they had put several of them on prominent front-facing display. I’ve got such a big to-read pile and so little money that I didn’t buy any, but when I get round to it I am definitely getting myself this edition of Heart of Darkness:
Nice. Simple. Clean. Black, red, white BAM! No fuss. It avoids the ‘arty photograph’ (it’s rare for me to like a cover that’s a photo) or ‘cropped down painting’ (a la Penguin’s standard classic line) which often plague classic book covers. It’s stylish and ‘classic-y’ looking without being dull and the actual book is decent quality as well, French flaps and everything. Best still, it’s one of a series of covers with similar designs.
The publisher is Hesperus and part of their mission statement is to publish neglected classics, but they also publish contemporary works and seem to have a focus on translated fiction – they published the UK edition of bestseller The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared (it’s on my shelf, I’ll get to it eventually, good cover though). Not all their classic covers are like this – they do the slightly ugly arty photo and the ‘cropped artwork’ thing too, though have a pretty sweet looking set of covers for the start of the Oz series. As near enough as I can work out though – given that these covers aren’t labeled as part of a specific imprint – this is the style they adopt for a lot of their shorter classics and novellas. I’m not sure I want to read all of them, and for the translated fiction I’d definitely want to check out information on the different translations available before buying based on a cover, but I really loved the design so I thought I’d share.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find the name of the cover artist on their website (and forgot to note it down in the shop) but if anyone knows please give me a shout and I’ll credit them properly.