16.7.09

Gorgeous books

I have far too many books. If I ever win the lottery I'd like a modernist minimalist flat with warehouse/library attached. Until then I have too many books for my bookshelves - and I keep buying more! But is it me, or are books getting more gorgeous? Is it the improvements in printing technology, nicer paper stock, or sadly just more available cheap labour in the far east? Whatever, books just get more beautiful. I'd like to tell you about three that I've bought recently - I'll save the most expensive one until last. Although they are all illustrated books, none of them is what you might call a children's book. The first is Rice's Architectural Primer (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2009). I saw Matthew Rice on BBC Breakfast and liked that he'd brought some of his original artwork in, manhandled I must say in rather a cavalier fashion by presenter Charlie Stayt. The book is a chunky hardback with pictorial covers with lots of colour images of annotated architectural features, with quirky humorous additions, like people smoking fags in doorways. He's a sort of modern-day Osbert Lancaster, and his watercolours are not too perfect! What I like about the book, is that the text is not just in black - key terms are in brown, the sign of truly full-colour printing. The second book is George Sprott: 1894-1975 (Drawn & Quarterly, 2009) by the cartoonist Seth. I first came across Seth when he supported Chris Ware at a talk at the ICA in 2004. I'd never heard of him and was kicking myself that while I was in a long queue to get my Chris Ware books signed, Seth was doing beautiful drawings in books people had brought along for him to sign (the ICA shop had already closed!). I spotted his latest book in the window of Dave's Comics in Sydney Street and bought one for Paul Cemmick's birthday, then ordered my own from Amazon. It's a giant book (35.6 x 30.5 x 1.8 cm) with a hardback quarter-bound cover with silver blocking. I love Seth's clean lines, and (unlike Chris Ware's perhaps) his comic books are very easy to read. The last book in this selection was the most expensive and if I tell you it cost £160, you'll think I'm rolling in it or spending the kid's inheritance! Eric Ravilious: The Story of High Street (The Mainstone Press, 2008) by Alan Powers et al is a limited edition (750 copies) facsimile of High Street, a children's book of shops with text by J M Richards and 24 lithographs by Eric Ravilious (1903-1942). Although the original book was not a limited edition, the destruction of the lithographic plates during the Blitz meant that only 2000 copies were ever printed. This edition includes not only the original shop fronts and text of High Street but also two essays and lots of other illustrations, preparatory drawings and sketches, many of them seen for the first time. I fell in love with Ravilious after seeing his originals at the old Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne (I haven't visited the new gallery yet). The book is lavishly printed, cloth bound and comes in a slipcase - I really need a pair of white cotton gloves to read it! Worth every penny.
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