Flatland, a novella about talking shapes and lines exploring a multiverse of different dimensions, has long been beloved by sci-fi fans, physicists, and mathematicians, but never really had an edition worthy of the words themselves. That’s something Epilogue Press hopes to change. Now on Kickstarter, the San Francisco-headquartered small publisher is taking pre-orders for a collector’s edition of Flatland, along with a companion app that allows users to explore the weird world of fourth-dimensional geometry.
Contained in a beautiful slipcase, the Epilogue Press edition of Flatland will come as a hardcover, foil stamped with the book’s title and a tesseract in metallic silver on black. A Tyvek cover and spine, as well as a sewn binding, keeps this edition of Flatland durable, soft, and supple, according to Epilogue founder Chris Lauritzen. The book’s chapter headers are printed in Futura, which was chosen because it is a “clean geometric typeface,” while the novella’s text is set in Baskerville, a typeface that is contemporary to Flatland, and give it a classic 19th-century feel. Epilogue’s edition contains all of Abbott’s original illustrations, as well as a new illustrated appendix that helps clarify some of the more mind-bending concepts in the text.
Written in 1884 by Edwin Abbott, the novella is one part geometry lesson, one part treatise on parallel dimensions, and one part parody of Victorian norms in which the narrator, a square, meets a circle who claims to actually be a sphere visiting from Spaceland, a three-dimensional world. Sphere explains that the inhabitants of Flatland only see him as a circle because they can not perceive the dimension above them. Although skeptical at first, Square’s mind is eventually opened to the existence of not just a third dimension, but a fourth, a fifth, and so on.
Lauritzen says cheap editions of Flatland have been plentiful since the book first slipped into the public domain, but they’re just that: cheap. “There’s already a large community of people who love Flatland, but there wasn’t an edition that people could love just as much.” So Lauritzen decided to make the Flatland edition of his dreams.
But Epilogue’s edition of Flatland doesn’t aspire just to be the most beautiful print edition of the classic work. It will also come with a companion web app, called the Library of Shapes, designed for Epilogue by Jono Brandel and Aki Rodic. This will not just function as an e-book version of Flatland in its own right, but will allow users to see what different characters from Flatland look like in two, three, and even four dimensions.
“There’s a lot of sensational takes about the role of technology in publishing today, but I don’t think print is dead or that digital is the devil,” Lauritzen tells me. “We just wanted to create something that sat nicely between the two, and that could be a catalyst to a broader interest in geometry and alternate dimensions.”
Epilogue Press’s edition of Flatland is now available for pre-order on Kickstarter, starting at $45.