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Wanted: A Virginia Woolf Series Designed By Pentagram’s Angus Hyland

Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? Book designers, apparently. How else to explain the insipid imagery that fronts so many of her books? Here’s Mrs. Dalloway illustrated by a pensive woman in pastels. Here’s To The Lighthouse illustrated by a pensive woman in pastels.

Wanted: A Virginia Woolf Series Designed By Pentagram’s Angus Hyland

Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? Book designers, apparently.

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How else to explain the insipid imagery that fronts so many of her books? Here’s Mrs. Dalloway illustrated by a pensive woman in pastels. Here’s To The Lighthouse illustrated by a pensive woman in pastels. And here’s A Room of One’s Own illustrated by–yep–a pensive woman in pastels. What a shame that the thought and imagination inside of Woolf’s books aren’t reflected on the outside.

So it’s with great relief that we bring you news of Angus Hyland’s designs for a fresh hardback series of Woolf’s major works. Hyland is a partner at Pentagram’s U.K. office who knows his way around classic literature. He has produced lovely editions for the writing of Vladimir Nabokov, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and others.

For Woolf, he chose big, bold non-figurative compositions to cover the dust jackets–a fitting tribute to a writer whose prose could be pretty abstract (as anyone who read The Waves in college lit and still doesn’t know what the hell the book was about will tell you). More than just a nod to Woolf’s style, though, the images are meant to capture the cultural moment in which the writer matured and prospered. They’re modeled after the textile designs of the Omega Workshop. The Workshop was an early 20th century design outfit founded to give graphic expression to the beliefs of the Bloomsbury Group, the influential clutch of writers, intellectuals, philosophers, and artists that counted Woolf among its members. A nice historical touch, huh?

Hyland took the same care with his selection of typefaces: The books use Albertus, by Berthold Wolpe, and Gill Sans, by Eric Gill. Like Woolf, both Wolpe and Gill worked in Britain during the early 20th century, and like Woolf, both approached their field with a keen nose for innovation.

The series includes Mrs. Dalloway, A Room of One’s Own, To the Lighthouse, The Waves, and Orlando. They’re available on Penguin Books’s U.K. site for 14 pounds (about $21) each.

[Images courtesy of Pentagram]

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About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D

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