White’s Books, ex-Penguin designer David Pearson’s new venture, hopes to reaffirm traditional methods of book production. The first four offerings from the publishing house are out this month, sporting covers by illustrators Petra Börner, Joe McLaren, Stanley Donwood (above) and Pearson himself…
The selection will no doubt be on a few Christmas lists this winter, thanks in no small part to Pearson’s art direction on the project he founded with publisher, Jon Jackson. We talked to Pearson about their work to date and his first illustration commissions.
Creative Review: Can you tell us why you set up White’s Books?
David Pearson: Working on the premise that the ‘classics’ are usually the books that are treasured most, we’re aiming to create a package that stands a chance of ageing as gracefully as the writing within. Owing to the arrival of eBooks, many have prophesied the death of the printed word but we see this simply as an opportunity to turn the spotlight back on the traditional methods and to luxuriate in the craft and tactility of the physical book and the printed page.
CR: You usually design book covers yourself – why have you chosen to hand that over to others this time?
DP: Being chiefly responsible for backlist publishing at Penguin I didn’t get to commission contemporary illustration as much as I liked, so this has provided me with an opportunity to do just that. Also, I decided early on that I would be typesetting our books so I knew I needed to free myself up for this labour-intensive process.
CR: Why choose these illustrators?
DP: Two reasons really. First and foremost, these are illustrators that I greatly admire and have always wanted to work with. It genuinely felt like we were offering an attractive brief (under the auspices of a non-repeating, narrative pattern) and this gave me the confidence to go after exactly who I wanted. Also, the only people that had to approve the work were myself and Jon (the brains behind White’s Books) so straight away many of the obstacles found commonly in trade publishing were removed. The other crucial reason is to do with the method in which each illustrator works. For example, the finishes applied to our covers are very traditional and lend themselves to a certain kind of mark- making. Petra Börner produced a paper cut illustration whilst Stanley Donwood worked in lino; both mediums which correlate with the very defined marks of foil blocking.
CR: What specs were you working to?
DP: Unusually, the illustration wraps right around the cloth-bound case, and uses a combination of pms colours and foil blocking. Internally, illustrative endpapers and a decorative title page are joined by an unusual text setting method rarely seen in the last hundred years. Each right-hand page sports what is known as a ‘catchword’: a hanging word that provides the opening of the following page. This aids the flow of reading, especially when using a larger, heavy page with a slow turning rate.
More information at whitesbooks.com