While many would argue that Jane Austen’s themes, heroes and heroines are as relevant in 2017 as they ever were, 2017 in fact marks 200 years since the author’s death. To mark the anniversary, the Times Literary Supplement (TLS) has launched an illustrated “bookazine” gathering together writings on Austen from the likes of Melvyn Bragg, EM Forster and Virginia Woolf.
According to the TLS, the purpose of the book is to give “Janeites” (hardcore Austen fans) a book that “lives up to the standards of literary excellence that they expect” while also appealing to non-experts looking to learn more about her life and work.
“Creatively, it means making sure there is a diversity of long and short articles, the basics as well as esoteric facts and anecdotes, and that the visuals really complement the words without drowning them out,” says the project’s creative director Darren Smith.
The “bookazine” format was chosen to allow readers to easily flick through different texts in a similar way they would read a magazine, while upholding a degree of academic rigour.
Smith illustrated selected Austen quotes using a slightly different style or medium for each including classic pen and ink, vector and paint, aiming to evoke the different books and the “moods they evoke.” These were placed throughout the text to “give natural breaks in the ‘flow’ of the whole book.”
“For the last image, for Persuasion, the quote is about Anne Elliot’s idea of good company: ‘the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation’,” says Smith. “To illustrate this I created a classical bandstand with Regency characters all having a lovely time – but from our perspective we can see their stage is a big speech bubble – so the characters are all caught in one big, clever conversation. It seemed a fitting end to the book.”
The cover image was created by News UK graphic designer Valentina Verc, who says that the main challenge was to show the breadth of Austen’s work in a single image. “For me it all came back to the heart,” she says.
“Jane Austen’s novels are all about romance, love, passion. I think she captures all the complications of the human heart in her books, and so I created what at first glance looks like a heart but within it you can see symbols and icons that represent each of her books.
“At first glance simple, but full of layers of complexity: that is what Jane Austen’s writing is all about.”
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