9 October 2014

Not Judging A Book By Its Cover #BookADayUK

We do though, don't we? Judge books by their covers. It's the very reason indies like me hire professional cover designers, why the design team of mainstream publishers coordinate their efforts with that of the marketing department.

Take, for instance, this poor specimen found while moving bookcases and giving the incumbents a long overdue clean. Slightly foxed, its corners a bit battered, on a stack in a second-hand bookshop, I wouldn't give it a second glance. And I doubt you would, either. It was already halfway to the pile for a charity shop donation when I read its spine: Painting A Portrait - De Laszlo. Inside, it was a revelation. Not for its content, but for the craft of the book-maker.

First published in 1934, I was holding the 1947 Fifth Impression, 'printed and engraved in England'. Think about that. It was two years after the end of World War II. Britain was still on rationing, and would continue to be so into the 1950s. Most of the pictures - and there are a lot of them - are in b&w. I've picked out a colour below. Take a good look at it.

That image, printed on glossy paper, has been hand-glued along one edge. Hand-glued. Every print is the same. The artist's palette of colours is reproduced in eye-smacking brilliance that my camera doesn't do justice to... specially prepared for this volume by Winsor & Newton Ltd. And somehow it is in 3D. Running a fingertip over the brush marks, it feels as though it is dried paint. 

All in all, it is a masterpiece of the bookmaker's art. Let's hear it for old-fashioned bookmakers. 

And Mr de Laszlo? Oh yes, Mr de Laszlo. It might be a how-to book, but he was certainly no how-to painter.


  1. Almost a forgotten pleasure, Linda. And a good post. Thanks. I just heard that in parts of Hull U library students go to a desk, call up the 'book' they want on a terminal and it appears on screen. So... no browsing the stacks (which is where I found all manner of gems when I was studying) and no accidental discoveries. On the plus side, no underlining by lazy buggers who cannot be arsed to take notes. Swings and roundabouts.

    1. Glad you dropped by, Alan, and thanks for commenting. I know what you mean about browsing the stacks. When I was writing 'Torc of Moonlight' - the first version - I could walk into Hull's Uni library with just a smile, no card-carrying security checks, and browsing the volumes in the History section was a revelation. And highly useful.