Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell (signed and numbered slipcased edition)

First off, apologies for yet another long hiatus from the blog. I'll spare you the details but I made some changes in my professional life that have required full attention these past few months. Currently between jobs, I've allowed myself some time off and have spent the past two weeks in glorious Brooklyn actually appreciating the summer here! It's my fourth summer since moving down here and I'm only now seeing some of the goodness to this season that I've missed all these years. I've spent many afternoons reading in Prospect Park, getting so unbelievably lost in one of the best books I've read in a long time, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet is set in 1799 and follows the eponymous Dutch clerk who was sent to Dejima island in Japan to assist in correcting the East India Company's corrupt bookkeeping. While I'm only about 200 pages in (you can see by the ribbon in the photo above), this book is surely one of the richest, most absorbing historical fiction novels I've ever encountered. Mitchell balances his vast knowledge of the era with a masterful level of storytelling--it's a remarkable achievement.

Also remarkable is the production of this book. The copy you see in these photos is one 500 signed and numbered editions published by Sceptre simultaneously with the book's release in the UK last month (I had a pre-order in for it as early as March through

Joe Wilson's design of this book is outstanding. I'm a huge fan of the design team Kai & Sunny (seriously, click through their portfolio, they did the covers for all of Mitchell's older titles in the UK) so I was a bit apprehensive when I heard they wouldn't be doing Jacob De Zoet. But, when you find out what kind of book this really is, that it doesn't have the glitzy showmanship of Mitchell's previous work, it's clear that Kai & Sunny would not be the best team for the job. So they went with Joe Wilson and Wilson completely nailed it. The design is somehow both subtle and ambitious at the same time, striking a confident balance between historical and modern. My favorite touch is the delicate use of a metallic blue. Carefully sprinkled across the cover, you'll find little rivets of reflective blue sparkles. They're sliced into the waves and the mountains, and speckled perfectly into the text on the cover. I tried to get a photo for you to see:

Also perfect are the book's endpapers and dyed-blue edges:

Unfortunately for you readers in the US, our local edition of this is nowhere near as beautiful. If you're interested in the book, I'd recommend ordering it from the UK. Mitchell's doing quite a bit of touring for this book, so a signed copy shouldn't be that hard to come by.

Currently reading:
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
Oishinbo by Tetsu Kariya

Currently listening to:
Dance Yrself Clean by LCD Soundsystem
Death Control by Night Control