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It was a pretty close scrape, but it looks like the more modern-looking aqua cover for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea won by a nose. (You fans of the more traditional, steampunk looking cover, I hope you’re not overly disappointed in the result!)

Stay tuned to find out how to win this as a digital print:

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - winning cover design

Richard Burton in "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold"

Richard Burton as Alec Leamas, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (Ritt, 1965)

This past week I’ve been in Berlin, Germany on business — and that’s the reason activity at this blog has slowed to a stand-still. Never fear, though! I have returned, and will be ramping up speed at this blog again. Keep tuning in: find out which 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea book cover emerged victorious in the poll, and find out how to win a print. Also, stay tuned for discussions on King Solomon’s Mines, by H. Rider Haggard.

Trouble Voting?

One person has reported difficulty submitting their vote on the book covers poll (below). You can also tell me which is your favorite by leaving a comment. Just please don’t abuse the system to double-vote! 🙂

20000 Leagues Under the Sea book coverNow, I know one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But as a reader who is also a graphic designer and a very visually-oriented person, I appreciate when a publisher puts some thought into the exterior of the book.20000 Leagues Under the Sea cover art

I have to say that whatever disappointments I might claim to have had with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, they began on the surface. I ordered my copy online from Amazon.com, and I’m sure what guided my decision more than anything was the price. I was fortunate to have picked the restored and annotated version, having ordered the book before I was aware of its turbulent translation history. Had I browsed the bookstore for a copy, I’m sure I would have picked up the one with the slickest cover, and this might not have been the one with the best innards. That being said, I was pretty disappointed when my copy arrived in the mail. For one thing, at 7″x10″, it’s not the size book you can easily wag around with you on an airplane (though I did exactly that, en route to Albuquerque for my 10 year high school reunion). And for another, the 1993 Naval Institute Press publication is something of an eyesore:

20000 Leagues Under the Sea - Naval Institute Press cover (1993)

Believe it or not, it shows up a little better on your screen due to the nature of monitor color; in the printed form, where ink gains on paper, the dark red title is completely lost against the murky green-and-red artwork. And I don’t mean to be criticizing the art (which I believe is by Milo Winter, although this fact is not attributed anywhere that I can see on the book cover). The blame must be put on the designer — or, in the apparent lack of one, on whomever was assigned those duties. Even if the title had been set in a color which didn’t mush into the background, little of the art would be seen due to the unnecessarily gigantic size of the type!

So, when I began to blog about reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I set out to find a fun image of the book cover to insert into my posts, to keep things lively. I was frustrated that I never really found an exciting cover design. One of the issues that has long plagued English translations of Verne’s adventure stories is that, due to the errors in translation, Verne has been considered an author of children’s adventures, and indeed many of the covers I came across seemed to be geared for younger audiences.

20000 Leagues Under the Sea book cover

20000 Leagues Under the Sea cover art

With no engaging cover art to be found, I decided I would design my own. I’m not a designer of dust jackets by trade, and I’m sure there are as many rules and tricks in that game as there are in designing movie posters. Oblivious to whatever regulations there may be, I’m fairly pleased with the outcome of my experiment, and I think I’ll make it a custom for books I read in the future (my brain is all ready percolating with concepts for the cover of King Solomon’s Mines, and the forthcoming biographical post about H. Rider Haggard — as well as future author bios on this site — will be written with the express intent of plugging it in to the “author flap” down the road).

The only problem is that I came up with two concepts, and I can’t decide between them. That’s where I need your help. I’m posting both concepts below. Please take a moment to evaluate them, and scroll below the images to a poll and tell me which one you prefer. I will make the winning cover available as a digital print (details to come). Thanks for your vote!

20000 Leagues Under the Sea - dust jacket design #1

1) The dust jacket as it would appear in its entirety, unfolded and flattened out

dust jacket design 1, front cover and spineDust jacket design 1, inner flapsDust jacket design 1, back and spine

20000 Leagues Under the Sea - dust jacket design #2

2) The dust jacket as it would appear in its entirety, unfolded and flattened out.

dust jacket design, front cover and spinedust jacket design, inner flapsdust jacket design, back and spine

_______________________________________

photography courtesy of Camile O’Briant

Don’t forget to vote for your favorite one!

Title Page of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

In which conclusory (if not conclusive) remarks are made regarding the final episodes in M. Verne’s adventure novel, Vingt mille lieues sous les mers; in which there may be spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book, don’t already know the basic story, and intend to read it for yourself one day — proceed with caution!

Continue Reading »

There are only a few entries remaining before I close the book on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

I thought some of you might be interested in following along on the next adventure up for discussion here, which will be H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines, which essentially contains the DNA for the “tomb-raider” genre of adventure, including its most perfect manifestation, Indiana Jones.

King Solomon's Mines book cover

featuring Allan Quatermain, the original Indiana Jones

The first discussions will commence around May 21st (don’t hold me to that too tightly). So go out there and grab a second-hand edition and start reading. I’m determined to make this a more interactive experience!

If you’ve got something else going and can’t join us in reading King Solomon’s Mines, not to worry: Your input here is still welcome! As with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the topics will draw from all kinds of media you may have thought was unrelated (“Heart of Darkness,” for example, or The Maltese Falcon). But just in case you were wondering what to read next, I thought I’d reveal my intentions in plenty of time to track with me (which is no great feat, because I’m a pretty slow reader).

Happy exploring!

The Orange Monk with a Fin Whale

Catch of the Day: The Orange Monk pictured with the skeleton of a fin whale

I don’t have the energy for paraphrasing, so I’ll just quote the informational placard at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, where this photo was snapped by that intrepid shutterbug, Hurricane Camile:

Reaching lengths of up to 85 feet and weighing up to 80 tons, the fin whale is the second largest species of whale (the blue whale is the largest, measuring up to 100 feet). Despite their large size, fin whales are surprisingly fast swimmers, earning them the nickname of “greyhounds of the sea.” Fin whales feed on small shrimp-like animals called krill and on small schooling fish, consuming up to one ton of prey per day. Like other large whales, they were hunted for their meat, blubber, and the filtering structure in their mouths called baleen. They are still listed as an Endangered Species, but fin whales have been slowly increasing their number since commercial whaling was suspended in 1986.”

Furthermore, I believe Captain Nemo would classify the fin whale as a “good” whale, and not an “evil” one.