Friday, December 12, 2008

Is This What Barthes Had in Mind?

With the miserable news from the book industry, it could be easy to become disheartened by the state of publishing.

But Penguin UK has the loveliest idea to cheer up book lovers: this beautifully designed collection of classics that is, unfortunately for readers in North America, available only at Waterstones.

Just look at how beautiful these books are: there’s not a hint of chick lit jollity (just think of what could have been done to Anna Karenina), but a generous measure of what I’d call Hogarth-Press-meets-Liberty. (Please scroll down the link for hand-painted Hogarth Press covers by Vanessa Bell.)

In fact, these books remind me of another favorite: the stunningly packaged Claus Porto soaps, which this lucky blogger happily owns. I haven’t bought any Claus Porto yet because I know I couldn’t bear to break the seal on their gorgeous wrapping. I’d keep them lined up in a pretty row, changing their order from time to time, like piecing and repiecing a quilt.

But I would gladly read these books (without breaking their spine, of course—ohh, the horror of that term!), and would gaze lovingly at them in my bookshelf. This is one of those happy moments when the book cover more than reflects its distinguished contents.

The pleasure of the text, indeed!


materfamilias said...

Thanks for the nod. Packaging can be so scrumptious, can't it! We looked all over Lisbon last June for Claus Porto soaps and couldn't find them -- turns out a little shop a block away from our Vancouver apartment stocks a gorgeous array -- my new go-to gift for almost anyone.
Pleasures of the text indeed!

enc said...

"Breaking the spine" sounds painful, and I feel pain when I see a paperback with it's spine broken. An all around icky experience.

I love the covers of those classics, and I can imagine what a full set would look like on my shelves.

La Belette Rouge said...

Those books are so very beautiful. Why can't they make all books beautiful, huh? It could be done and I would buy them all.

Songy said...

I will have them neatly lined up in my bookshelf and happily listen to audio books. hehehe.

WendyB said...


Mary-Laure said...

Ah, good old Roland, I'm sure he wuld have had something super smart to say about this.

Love those new Penguins. I have to say that Penguin is a marketing genius, they just have a way of revamping books to make them even more irresistible.

Glowing Doll said...

Yes, I need those Penguins on my shelf.

I'm addicted to Penguin editions.