Friday, 21 December 2012


"In 1894 Joris-Karl Huysman wrote Against Nature (the novel that inspired Oscar Wilde to write A Picture of Dorian Grey) at one point, the Parisian hero of Huysman's tale, fascinated by the novels of Charles Dickens, orders a taxi and visits an English pub in Paris, before embarking on his trip to London.

Except...he finds himself unable to complete the journey and returns home.

Whereupon he realises that the imaginary experience is more than a preferable substitute for the real thing."

A robinsonner is a traveller who does not travel. A cousin of the flâneur, the robinsonner takes their name from the character of Robinson Crusoe. Daniel Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe without ever having visited a desert island himself, or indeed having ever left Europe. Defoe has a special place in the history of psychogeography, with Merlin Coverley claiming that his 1722 novel  A Journal of the Plague Year represents the beginning of the psychogeographic tradition. Patrick Keiller, of course, references this in his character of Robinson, who's (adopted) name is also a reference to his being 'marooned' in Britain. 

Thursday, 20 December 2012

More selected poems and images.

The work ploughs on, with some major tweaks in the overall content and layout which I shall hopefully be able to go in to more detail about later. In order to keep things moving here, here's a selection of some of the more recent poems and images from the book.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

I Dream of Colour Music

One of the most important unifying elements of Vectis is colour. Building on the ideas set out in this post I have designed a colour scheme that gives each season, each month and each journey its own colour.

Each of these three colour schemes form a progression, a spectrum, and could be linked up into wheels to reinforce the circular structure of the book.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Patrick Keiller - 'London'

"It is a journey to the end of the world"

'London' is the first entry in what has become a trilogy of films by British film-maker Patrick Keiller. London is of particular importance to Vectis, more than the other films ('Robinson in Space' and 'Robinson in Ruins') as it was after attending a screening of that film as an undergraduate that I first began thinking of the idea that would eventually become Vectis, and because of its tighter geographic focus. I also feel that, for a number of reasons, London is the most successful of the trilogy; the focus on a more particular area gives the film more depth, more space to explore poetic digressions; visual themes have more time to develop, and the use of sound and music is, to my mind, more interesting. Though I have partly reacted against the work of Keiller (at least in the sense that he represents part of a tradition which sees London as a focus of Britain, though his later films soften this somewhat) I have great respect for his work, and rank him highly. Some of the particular methods he employs (or appears to employ) are similiar to my own. It has been a pleasure to rewatch what I consider his best work in order to make some observations on it.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

5 Styles of Book Design?

During the course of my MA I have been doing a lot of thinking on the subject of books and book design. One thing I have noticed, throughout this thinking is there seems to be a relatively small number of styles or end-goals of book design. All books strive (or fail), it seems to me, to achieve quality based on one or more of these competing metrics. I present five possible metrics, with the above diagram notes common ways they might intersect in the form of a Euler diagram. Of course, these are not prescriptive, nor are they the only such system one might come up with. By changing the definitions, and the borders between definitions, an infinite variety of categorisations are possible.

The Book Beautiful

This style of design is often said to have found its ultimate expression in the work of William Morris's Kelmscott Press (example). It emphasises the aesthetic qualities of the book as a thing of beauty, to be enjoyed as much (or more) as the text and images within. Often more masterpieces of the bookbinder's and printer's craft skills than the book designer's considered aesthetics, the book beautiful may be seen as an old-fashioned, fuddy-duddy sort of concept, evoking marbled endpapers, hand-sewn bindings, tooled leather covers, gilt-edged pages and meticulous printing, perhaps referencing early incunabula and other medieval books. This is not necessarily true, however; the concept of the book beautiful extends to even mass-market paperbacks, where particular attention has been paid to the aesthetics of the book as an object and, crucially, these aesthetics could be said to assume equal (or greater) importance compared to the contents of the book.

The Book Functional

This style of design is that championed by technical masters such as Jan Tschichold, and draws heavily on Beatrice Ward's Crystal Goblet metaphor. In this style of design, the book is treated chiefly as a container, an object for presenting a text, or images. Decoration is minimal or non-existent and the number of typefaces is kept to a minimum. Margins and the overall size are considered from the perspective of ergonomics as much as aesthetic beauty. Indeed, proponents of this style claim that the most functional book will be the most beautiful book. This is linked to enlightenment ideals, and will often lead them to sweeping, absolutist pronouncements, never examining the cultural parochialism of such a view. Not all examples of the Book Functional are of the same type: textbooks come under this heading.

The Book Frugal

This is a sort of book where the entire design is dictated by economic considerations. Paper stock, binding, cover designs; all are chosen to be as cheap and inviting as possible. This type of book may superficially appear to be similiar to the Book Functional, but ignores many of the ergonomic, aesthetic, durability and other concerns that may appear in this category. The Book Frugal covers a huge swathe of the modern book industry. The vast majority of mass-market paperbacks fall into this type; pulp fiction indeed.

The Book Grotesque

A special case, this rare form of book can be thought of as the absolute opposite of the Book Beautiful, and perhaps could be thought of as a subset of the Book Visual. The Book Grotesque does not necessarily aim at ugliness as it's explicit goal, but it achieves it, for whatever reason. Perhaps it is an artist's book, or the product of some small, incompetent press, or an example of art brut? There will always be some people, of course, who claim that the grotesque is beautiful, and others who claim that the beautiful is grotesque. This will always necessitate the need for the existence of this classification.

The Book Visual

 The book visual represents the bulk of artist's books, but also many other sorts of books; atlases, books of aerial photographs, and so on. The Book Visual considers the book in terms of aesthetics. Its design is not simply as a structure for presenting other information (as in the Book Functional) nor is it decorative (as in the Book Beautiful). The Book Visual is the masterwork of the designer. It's end goal is not necessarily beauty (or some concept analogous to beauty such as richness, cool etc.) but it might be beautiful to some people's eyes. It has a style that is not necessarily aimed at presenting information in the most efficient way, though it may achieve a high standard of presentation.

Vectis is a Book Visual.

Monday, 10 December 2012

The Test Book arrives!

The test book arrived on Friday morning. What with my birthday and other matters, I haven't been able to get a post together till now.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Island Occultism

The idea of a Ley Line network on the Island is not something that only I have been interested in. There's always strange things to be found in the occult corners of the internet. Here's a few little things that my researches have thrown up.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Judging a Book: The cover

Yesterday, I sent an incomplete version of Vectis off to for a test printing. Particularly, I am interested in seeing if the bleeds work and all text remains readable at paper sizes. This marks an important point for Vectis; all the structure of the book is now in place, waiting only to be filled with joyous words and images. Much is already filled. All the photography for Summer and Autumn is done, and Autumn is about three quarters finished in every sense. But until this weekend, one task remained completely untackled.

In order to have the book printed, you see, it needs a cover.

Covers are an interesting element of book design. Many producers of artists books treat the cover as a completely integral part of the whole work, continuing themes from the inside to the outside. For me, however, the cover has a slightly different feel. The way I see it is as a frame; the frame is important to a work of art, and the frame should be appropriate (no elaborate gold-leafed rococo on the Kandinsky, please!), but it is not part of the work. It is slightly seperate from it. You can change the cover and still have the same book, in the way I see it anyway.