THE STRANGE LIBRARY - Haruki Murakami
‘All I did was go to the library
to borrow some books’
The Strange Library is a unique and sinister tale of a boy who goes to a library to borrow a book and then a surreal nightmare ensues. I wanted to evoke a distorted nostalgia for the library, its corridors and its dusty shelves.
During my design process I became inspired by the visual ephemera of libraries, such as date stamps and issue cards. I have used an actual library pocket on the outside of the first edition – fans who queued overnight at Haruki Murakami’s public signing at Waterstones Piccadilly and were given a unique teaser library card will be able to insert this into the pocket. I designed the cover with a disturbing colour combination to reflect the pervading tone of malice within the novel: a violent magenta background, the fading office blue of the library pocket and the acid yellow label.
The text of The Strange Library is fully illustrated throughout, with a variety of drawings, images, illustrations, and photographs; and they are taken from a wealth of printed sources; from a 1950s cookery book to Birds of the British Islands, 1907, a book on popular astronomy from 1894 to a Victorian book on Locks and keys. The majority of the illustrations were sourced from old books I found in the London Library. Founded in the 1840’s, the library is a labyrinth crammed to the ceiling with treasures on seemingly every subject. The metal stacks date from 1890s and are a marvel of architecture, steel grille floors allowing you to see to other floors above and below. Here are housed the books in Science and Miscellaneous, our favourite sections for the sort of research we did.
My picture researcher and I became literally lost in its corridors! There was a great sense of achievement when we pulled out a hidden gem that matched a particular line or part of Murakami’s text. I was interested in how the style of illustration plates and printing techniques evoked a certain period. My favourite was the almost fluorescent colours found in the plate section of a 1950’s German cookery book. For some pages like that of the caterpillars, I had to carefully amalgamate images from different sources. Only two illustrations had to be commissioned for the book as we just couldn’t find images for doughnuts or a ball and chain.
We enjoyed the feel of the books, the delicate tissue held between plates sections, richly elaborate marbled endpapers, the binding of the books and the yellowed sticky that held odd pages together. Faded, folded, mottled and creased even the ‘blank’ pages were of aesthetic interest.
The Strange Library will be published in hardback with specially designed text and illustrations throughout on 2 December 2014, £12.99, translated into English from the Japanese by Ted Goossen. An ebook edition will also be available.