The Endless Bookshelf : simply messing about in books

2 October 2014

The Death of the Book Award : 2014

The Endless Bookshelf announces the 2014 Winner of The Death of the Book Award :

— The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. General Editor : Ian Small. Volume 3. The Picture of Dorian Gray. The 1890 and 1891 Texts. Edited by Joseph Bristow. Oxford University Press, [2005 ; POD reprint, dated on terminal leaf 25 Sept. 2014]. Bound in brownish repellent silicon paper over boards, false gilt rules and titling on spine. Textblock stiffly glued and unopenable ; narrow margins, poorly reproduced illustrations. From the reports of the judges : “ it smells disgusting, too, oily synthetic hormones ”.

The Death of the Book Prize is awarded for the ugliest book issued from a publisher who should know better.

All art is at once surface and symbol.
[. . .] All art is quite useless.
      — Oscar Wilde, preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891.*

The Endless Bookshelf has reviewed, noted, and consulted numerous books from the many branches of Oxford University Press. Those books are : often useful, well designed, substantial, and, sometimes, even beautiful. This book is supposed to be a volume in the definitive edition of the Collected Works of a world author, but it is an affront to the senses, an engineering failure, and a disservice to scholarship. What were they thinking ? Were they thinking ? Do the editors know that this has been done to the book ?

The late Reno W. Odlin coined the term “ paperback in drag ” to describe late twentieth-century industrial hardcovers. Nominations and coinages for the taxonomy of these zombie book objects are invited.

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* — Oscar Wilde. The Picture of Dorian Gray. London, 1891. Large paper copy, signed. Cover design by Charles Ricketts.

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