Friday Book Design Blog: The Perfect Capital
I’m clearly on an Eric Gill tip at the moment, or possibly he’s in the air, because this week’s book takes the artist and designer as presiding genius – and even posthumous contributor, in terms of illustrations, and more.
It is The Perfect Capital, a novel by UK-based American writer Karen Healey Wallace – and it’s an account of the unlikely affair between Maud, a Gill-obsessed artist and Edward, a rather arrogant banker who first sees her inspecting a memorial plaque on the Church of the Holy Trinity off Sloane Square, late at night, improbably dressed in tiny skirt, heels and lace top. A few minutes later, and she is giving him head in a cab heading for her home.
What follows isn’t quite the Fifty Fonts of Grey that this opening might lead you to expect, but still it does include just as much discussion of font and letter design as it does rutting, desire and betrayal. It’s not so much that sex and Gill are strange bedfellows, as that you’d have to be careful how you treat them.
As Maud tells Edward, “he did some things he shouldn’t have”, which will come as no surprise to anyone who’s read Fiona MacCarthy’s 1989 biography, which revealed the extent of his sexual experimentation (including incest and bestiality) to a stunned world that had previously held him as an eccentric but justly lauded artist-craftsman-guru.
The Perfect Capital takes its interest in Gill’s artistic theories seriously. It is designed according to the specifications of his An Essay on Typography (discussed in a previous post here): with wide margins, and the text unjustified to the right (ragged right, as it’s known), set in Gill’s Joanna, and with a plain title page, eschewing what Gill calls “showing off”.
The copyright page is at the back, and the book as a whole is given an austere and classical-looking type-only paper cover, with a translucent vellum dust-jacket, while the spine is stitched and left uncovered – as was Canongate’s hardback edition of Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being (see my post here).
The result is a book that is delightful to hold, but delicate also: it is clearly a book that could be damaged, that calls for as much care and attention from its reader as it received from its creators. And what’s even more surprising about this is that The Perfect Capital comes from Acorn Independent Press, a self-publishing company – not a part of the market you’d necessarily look to first for excellent in design and production.
It is, as the title of this lovely short film showing it coming into being suggests, a “very physical book”.
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