Oscar Wilde’s "The Picture of Dorian Gray", as re-imagined by Four Corners Books

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”

A number of statements such as this one opened the second edition of Oscar Wilde’s only published novel, The Picture Of Dorian Gray, in 1891. This celebrated preface was meant as a beforehand defence against criticism. Four Corners Books gave the preface all its significance in its 2004 edition, setting it sumptuously in large italics that take up to 24 pages, with the intention of making the aphorisms stand out and sink deep into the reader’s mind.

The Picture Of Dorian Gray is a work of classic gothic fiction, a faustian tale of good and evil, of the beautiful and the ugly. The novel first appeared in June 1890 in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, a literary magazine published in Philadelphia from 1868 to 1915.

This amazingly gorgeous 128-page-remediation of The Picture Of Dorian Gray was designed by London-based designer John Morgan, re-imagined by British artist Gareth Jones and published by Four Corners Books. The book aims to show the concept of masculine beauty throughout, and as a reference to the novel’s original publication, was designed as a large format paperback and printed black and white on thin newsprint paper, all of which will feel to the reader as if him or her were flicking through an old magazine.

As Four Corners Books put it, Gareth Jones “has re-imagined this fin-de-siècle story as a costume drama set in 1970s Paris”. Interspersed throughout the book, a number of Gitanes’ cigarette ads from the 1970s feature attractive male models and conjure the idea of masculine beauty, the main theme of Wilde’s novel. Taking the Gitanes reference a bit further, the cover was printed on the same blue colour as the cigarette packs; and the title set in ITC Benguiat —a typeface which was designed in the 1970s but based on some other typefaces from the Art Nouveau period—. ITC Benguiat is also used for headers; then Times New Roman Italic for the preface, and Garamond for the primary text; a risky combination of typefaces that definitely looks good and coherent here. The magazine style of this publication is also present in the primary text pages, which feature a two-column-grid and big extracts from the text, making the book reader-friendly and quite vivacious from an aesthetic point of view.

The Picture of Dorian Gray was published by Four Corners Books in 2007 as part of their Familiar series.

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