Illuminated Editions is an experiment in seeing old books in new ways.
Launched in 2017 by the small press publisher and maker of exquisite objects Beehive Books, the ongoing series matches the greatest graphic artists in the world with classic works of fiction, prose and poetry from centuries past. The artist produces a portfolio of illustrations and elaborations of the text, and the works are combined in cloth-bound slipcase volumes, printed on uncoated paper, and elegantly designed with an eye towards beauty and readability.
While these volumes harken back to the lovingly crafted, handsomely bound illustrated volumes of the Victorian era, their true purpose is to create a collaborative conversation across an age between artist and author. We as readers are privileged to overhear a conversation between great minds, and to see these books through the fresh eyes of visionary graphic storytellers and image-makers. The ongoing adventure of this line explores what we see when we read, how images interweave with text to create new ideas, and how great books continue to reveal themselves to us centuries after their publication.
The three launch titles in the Illuminated Editions line begin to roll out in bookstores this year, beginning with THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU. H.G. Wells' early sci-fi fable of human chimeras and deranged scientific curiosity comes to nightmarish life through the brushwork of the legendary comic creator, graphic artist and master of monsters & mutants Bill Sienkiewicz (ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN, STRAY TOASTERS), with an introduction by the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro.
Paul Pope (BATTLING BOY, BATMAN: YEAR 100) takes on THE WILLOWS AND OTHER NIGHTMARES, a collection of short stories and novellas by Algernon Blackwood, one of the original masters of horror and weird fiction. Blackwood's work predicts and predates the work of H.P. Lovecraft, who called THE WILLOWS the greatest horror tale ever written in the English language. Pope brings a suite of five Blackwood stories to unsettling visual life, tackling the challenge of how to illustrate an author who had his gaze firmly fixed on the inexpressible, unknowable and uncanny. The edition is accompanied by an introduction by the great horror novelist Ramsey Campbell, and the artwork is colored by Omar Abdullah.
THE FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE is full of stories that are moving, sweet, magical and poignant -- much like the artwork of visual artist Yuko Shimizu (BARBED WIRE BASEBALL, THE UNWRITTEN). Yuko is one of the most celebrated and admired editorial illustrators in the world, and her work is perfectly aligned with Wilde's witty, rueful voice. As the Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Michael Cunningham writes in his introduction to our volume, this collaboration is "a meeting of such extraordinary talents the book itself emanates the minute traces of a pulse."
Like many high-end small press publishers of the 18th and 19th century, Beehive Books takes a community-based subscription approach to funding their projects: each book is paid for via a crowdfunding campaign. This pre-funding mechanism allows Beehive to take a highly experimental, author- and artist-driven approach to publishing, including taking on projects far off the beaten track of book trade distribution. In Illuminated Editions, this enables them to select books based on the passions of their contributors, including forthcoming editions by lesser known authors like Margaret Cavendish, David Lindsay, and even Blackwood.
The artwork for these three launch projects is on display until June in the MoCCA Gallery at the Society of Illustrators. The Illuminated Editions project continues, with forthcoming editions of Fyodor Dostoevsky's CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, illustrated by Dave McKean, J.M. Barrie's PETER PAN, illustrated by Brecht Evens, and Margaret Cavendish's THE BLAZING WORLD, illustrated by Rebekka Dunlap. This collective adventure in illustration, design, and publishing has only just begun...