The book is the sixth in Four Corners’ Familiars series, which invites contemporary artists to produce a new edition of a classic novel or short story. Other books in the series include Dracula, A Picture of Dorian Gray and Blumfeld, An Elderly Bachelor, a little-known and unfinished novella by Kafka. As all the books are designed according to the artists’ wishes, the appearance of the books is as varied and interesting as the texts chosen.
For Vanity Fair, British artist Donald Urquhart has produced a series of 30 black-and-white illustrations that appear throughout the book. He has focused the works on Becky Sharp, the novel’s anti-heroine. “I wanted to sideline all the secondary characters,” says Urquhart. “The way I’ve done it, the chapters she’s not in, there’s no pictures.”
As with all the books in the Familiars series, the original text of the novel is included complete, and is newly typeset. “The book is set in Perpetua and Felicity,” explains designer John Morgan. “One of the reasons for choosing these was the two female typeface names (and their different social circumstances in myth) and how that sits well with the book’s central characters.” The typefaces also fit suit the graphic-style imagery by Urquhart in the book. “They were also chosen because Gill designed them,” continues Morgan, “and they work so well when used with Gill’s own harsh, high contrast sharp-edged engravings/drawings.”
More info on this edition of Vanity Fair, and on Four Corners Books generally is at fourcornersbooks.co.uk.