The Art of Book Design: A Houseboat on the Styx

John Kendrick Bangs. A Houseboat on the Styx. U.S., Harper & Brothers, 1895.

Today’s book is extra-special because it belongs to our very own Anne, Cranky Cat Lady. It’s also my very first reader submission for this column and I thank Anne for that very much. She tells me this book belonged to her parents and I can see that it’s landed in a good next home with someone who recognizes that the value of a book is more than just as a repository for stories.

Often when I post a lovely, old book I wonder what it feels like in your hand. What are its textures, its weight and its point of balance? What of the thickness of its papers and the feel of its edging as you turn a page? I wonder how the binding sounds as you open the book and what is the faint fragrance of its paper and glue and incense of ink. Modern e-readers are fine, functional things and I use one myself sometimes, but a book, a real book, is a treat for the senses and not just the mind.

If you have a real book that you’d like to share, I’d like to see it. Just e-mail me at the link on the sidebar. Thanks again, Anne, for sharing your A Houseboat on the Styx.

The Art of Book Design: The Velveteen Rabbit

Bianco, Margery Williams; Illustrations by Nicholson, William, Sir. London, Heinemann, 1922.

This is the original cover from the first publication of the book in 1922. I’ve included a few interior plates to showcase the simple, tender artwork that brings the story to life.

Bianco, Margery Williams; Illustrations by Nicholson, William, Sir. London, Heinemann, 1922.

Bianco, Margery Williams; Illustrations by Nicholson, William, Sir. London, Heinemann, 1922.

Bianco, Margery Williams; Illustrations by Nicholson, William, Sir. London, Heinemann, 1922.



via: The Internet Archive

The Art of Book Design: The Book of Lies

Aleister Crowly. The Book of Lies, which is also falsely called Breaks. The Wanderings or falsifications of The One Thought of Frater Perdurabo which Thought is itself Untrue. London, Wieland & Co. 1913

According to Wikipedia, Crowly was,

…an English occultist, ceremonial magician, poet, painter, novelist, and mountaineer. He founded the religion of Thelema, identifying himself as the prophet entrusted with guiding humanity into the Æon of Horus in the early 20th century. A prolific writer, he published widely over the course of his life.

In the Wiki article specifically about The Book of Lies, the author says,

“This book deals with many matters on all planes of the very highest importance. It is an official publication for Babes of the Abyss, but is recommended even to beginners as highly suggestive.”[1]

The book consists of 91 chapters,[2][3] each of which consists of one page of text. The chapters include a question mark, poems, rituals, instructions, and obscure allusions and cryptograms. The subject of each chapter is generally determined by its number and its corresponding Qabalistic meaning

Well, that clear up everything.


via: The Pulp Girls

The Art of Book Design: A Book about Bees

Jenyns, Charles Fitzgerald Gambier. A book about bees. Their history, habits, and instincts; together with the first principles of modern beekeeping for young readers.
London, W. Gardner, Darton, & co., 1886.

I thought this book was a nice complement to Nightjar’s Bee Orchids of earlier today.


via: The Internet Archive

The Art of Book Design: From the Earth to the Moon

Jules Verne. From the Earth to the Moon. London, Sampson Low, Marston, Low, and Searle, 1873 — Source.

Our book today comes from the fertile imagination of Jules Verne and the cover is eerily reminiscent of the modern rocket technology that actually did take man to the moon nearly 100 years after this book was written.


via: The Public Domain Review

The Art of Book Design: Practical Taxidermy

Montague Browne. Practical Taxidermy. London: “The Bazaar” Office, 1878 — Source.

I have mixed feelings about taxidermy. On the one hand, it’s an interesting art form. It involves a lot of sculpture and the artist needs a good understanding of anatomy and the nature of the animal when it was animate. Taxidermists strive to make the animal look as natural as possible, even if they place it in an unnatural pose or place. It’s very multi-media and there are all sorts of little tricks they use to put things together and make them stay put. Fascinating, eh?

On the other hand, I think that displaying “trophy animals” on the wall or floor is disgusting. I once had a client who was a big game hunter. He had a tiger skin rug and a polar bear skin ‘throw’ on his sofa and hanging on his walls were the skulls of several big game animals. I know there was a moose and a big horn sheep, but I can’t remember what the others were. It was so sad and totally creepy and very unnerving and I had the devil of a time doing the assessment. On my way to the next home visit I had to pull over and catch my breath because I felt like throwing up. He was a pleasant enough man, but when I got back to the office I traded his case with a colleague who didn’t mind the taxidermy.


via: The Public Domain Review