Cover Love: Faber 80 Beckett Series

As soon as I laid eyes on these book covers I knew I had a new ‘Cover Love’ feature in the making, and this one is a first because I’m focusing on a series of books which haven’t yet been issued. They’re a series of 18 books being published by Faber & Faber (under their Faber 80 brand), which encompass the works of Samuel Beckett, and for those like me who adore a cover on which the presence of typography rules supreme, this Beckett set is sure to get the ‘cover loving’ heart racing. Presented above in the order they will be published by Faber, the first batch of five titles will be released on the 21st of this month (Faber already have these available to order on their website – click on the individual covers of any of the first five to visit the publisher page for that book), with two further release dates scheduled for the remainder of the titles (the next six will be published on 3rd Sept. and the final seven on 4th Feb. 2010)

Wholly different to the usual treatment for minimalist typography-based cover designs (for example the previously featured Art of Novella series from Melville House where the fonts are all uniform and regimented), the covers for this series are truly ‘off the wall’ and unique, as I’m sure you will agree. Created by London-based design studio A2/SW/HK, a design house who have a speciality in typographical design, the titles for these covers have all been ingeniously played around with to create delightful individual expressions of art – and I love them!

It’s not difficult to imagine that such innovative design work would be all time-consuming, and the project for this has taken close to a year to reach fruition. Working in close conjunction with the Beckett estate and Faber’s own in-house poetry team, the project was managed by Faber’s senior designer Miriam Rosenbloom, who was also responsible for commissioning A2 to design the covers for this new Beckett series. Speaking of the project Rosenbloom said:

This is the first time all of Samuel Beckett’s work has been collected together and published by a single publishing house. To celebrate this landmark occasion, Faber decided to redesign all of his covers to give the collected works a new unified look.

Our starting point was some of the 1960s Beckett covers from the Faber archive, which take a bold typographic approach. A2 seemed like the perfect match for the series; they are renowned for their typographic work and have a wonderful ability to work with historical reference while always remaining true to their individual style.

A2 have certainly lived up to their reputation in the design of these covers, and they have certainly taken fully on board Rosenbloom’s key design request to match the 1960s covers in their ‘bold typographical approach’. RobAroundBooks managed to get a statement from A2 in relation to their design specifics. Here’s what they had to say:

The cover designs feature a custom-made type treatment printed in a minimal palette of two or three colours. A bespoke cover font, newly designed by A2/SW/HK, forms a type family in four weights that range from a light condensed weight to a bold wide weight, and is used to ensure each book cover has its individual design and character but is still clearly identifiable as part of a larger collection.

Book titles run vertically to allow for the use of large point sizes and parts of the titles bleed off the edges to create a tension in the design. Additional material is typeset in a bespoke sans-serif font of two weights and specially drawn italics.

A neutral grey background has been chosen as a counterpoint to the special Pantone colours chosen for each of the eighteen titles — this choice is also, in part, a playful reference to the Samuel Beckett’s directive, that his gravestone be ‘any colour, so long as it’s grey’.

I think both Faber and A2 need to be applauded, not least because it takes a lot of courage to be this bold and innovative with book cover design. However I think they’ve pulled it off magnificently, with these covers clearly demonstrating that the old adage ‘less is more’ can be hugely effective when applied with vision and ingenuity. What’s more I also love A2’s subtle yet absolute homage to Beckett, in the application of ‘gravestone grey’ on the cover of every title. I’m sure Mr. Beckett would have quietly approved!

*My thanks to Gemma at Faber for furnishing me with all of the extra information.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books)

Comments

  1. always cool~~

  2. They’re a series of 18 books…

    Yet only seventeen covers. I must know which is missing.

    Rosenbloom said:

    This is the first time all of Samuel Beckett’s work has been collected together and published by a single publishing house.

    Could the eighteenth be his first novel, then, Dreams Of Fair To Middling Women? I’ve got the Grove Centenery editions of Samuel Beckett, which is four hardbacks with the complete works excepting, as per Paul Auster’s introduction inside, the aforementioned Dreams Of… and some poetry that Beckett never himself translated from the French.

  3. When I say ‘first novel’, I suppose I mean ‘last novel’, given that he wrote it, shelved it, and it didn’t see light of day until he’d died.

    Just looked at the Faber site, it says there’s going to be twenty volumes in the set. Makes sense, being a nice round number.

  4. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)
    says:

    Stewart, there are eighteen covers shown here?!?

  5. Stewart, there are eighteen covers shown here?!?

    Whoops! It’s late. We can edit that bit out, can’t we? ;-)

  6. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)
    says:

    Emm…looks like they have raised the total number of titles in the series to 20. Well spotted Stewart. Faber had originally told me ’18’. Maybe it’s just a webpage typo?

    Oh and as for editing your miscount of covers out? Nah! It shows that even the great Stewart McAbney can make a rare mistake sometimes – and that gives us mere mortals some semblance of hope. :)

  7. These seem quite disappointing when compared to the simple, modern designs that Calder employed. The new editions are welcome, but the covers make them seem like school editions somehow. The titling shouts too much, for works so much about tracings, stirrings and above all ‘lessness’

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