Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lost Travelers

There are somewhere among the books I keep, a half-dozen publishing jewels that never tire, and call me back for another look, another read. For that reason, those half-dozen jewels are stashed in places I often return to, there to show me again what imaginative publishing looks and feels like. I like a good story to read, but the physical book, the binding, design, these aspects too, grab the attention. I admire and appreciate those books that radiate a skillful combination of these qualities.

One special San Francisco publisher consistently puts out books that the reader can recognize immediately as a rare collaboration of artists. Browsing in a bookstore and glimpsing the small trademark eyeglasses at the lower end of a book’s spine, Chronicle Books leaps to mind and my hand moves automatically to take down that book for a close look. I have no knowledge of Chronicle Books sales records, but I believe one of their more memorable releases was the Griffin & Sabine series of books published in the early 1990s, written and illustrated by Nick Bantock. Another Chronicle title I stumbled upon in a bookstore I half remember is The Tattooed Map, by Barbara Hodgson, an entrancing novel of Morocco, bizarre happenings and mysterious Arabs.

The first scan here is from facing pages in the Hodgson book, showing clippings of old postcards, stationery and notes in the narrator’s hand, wrapping the text of the story. In the top left are small notes on photographs taken, roll # 8. (Amazon link here)

The second scan comes from the book, Griffin & Sabine, and is one page of a letter folded inside an envelope; the next image shows the facing pages and that envelope. (Amazon here)

The bottom picture is another set of facing pages, these from Sabine’s Notebook, the second in the series. (Amazon)

When I look at any, or all of these books I am impressed again by the ravishing book design, and at the possibilities in publishing that Chronicle Books brings to life.

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America