NABOKV-L post 0018858, Wed, 25 Nov 2009 19:16:10 -0500

SIGHTING: Redesigning Nabokov
See article for comments from designers on inspiration for book designs

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Publishers routinely outfit their backlist titles—the books that have
been kicking around for years but still sell—with new jackets, hoping
that an updated design will keep a classic book afloat in an easily
distracted market. But Vintage Books has done something altogether
different with the works of Vladimir Nabokov, timed to coincide with the
posthumous release of his last, unfinished book, The Original of Laura.

Vintage art director John Gall asked a roster of jacket designers to
create new covers for the twenty-one Nabokov titles that the company
publishes, including such masterworks as Lolita, Pale Fire, and Pnin.
(The existing Nabokov design scheme dates back to the late 1980s.) Gall
gave the designers one stipulation: each cover would be a photograph of
a specimen box, a nod to Nabokov’s passion for butterfly collecting.
Within the framework of the box, and using layers of paper and insect
pins, the designers were free to create more or less what they wished.

The new versions have been rolled out as existing back stock of old
editions are depleted. “I thought that using the different designers
would be a way to keep people interested in what was coming,” Gall says.
“People stop paying attention after the major books are issued. I wanted
them all to be important. So many backlist redesigns just slip
themselves onto the bookshelves barely noticed.” We asked seven of
Gall’s selected designers to discuss Nabokov’s books, their cover
art, and just how tricky it was to work within the confines of a
butterfly box.

Suellen Stinger-Hye

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