Monday, October 19, 2009

A hundred! And then some!

Sometime this last week, I sent my one hundredth Eisenbrauns book cover to press. I suspected I was getting close to that mark, so I sat down witht he website to figure it out. It took a little bit of doing to determine, as I excluded the books that had been reprinted (and thus, sent to press again), books that a previous designer had started, and I finished (there are my book covers), covers I did for other publishers (these are Eisenbrauns book covers), and covers for books that haven't gone to press yet.

So. Wanna see?

The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles and Its Place in Biblical Thought The Old Testament in the Life of God's People The Phoenicians in Spain

I Will Speak the Riddles of Ancient Times
This one was fun (well, technically, these two, since it's a two-volume set, with different colors) once I got a hang of what the editors wanted. That's the challenge: I've produced plenty of covers that I dearly loved, but that the editors, well, didn't. One learns to shrug and keep trying. It's also one of the few instances where a major typo made it onto the cover... in the title, no less. I now have someone else proofread my covers before I send them to press!

A God So Near
The artwork isn't mine, but the rest of the cover was.

A Grammar of the Hittite Language, 1: Reference Grammar A Grammar of the Hittite Language, 2: Tutorial

These are, in fact, two separate books. They just look identical. Honest!

A Severe Mercy
I've had this idea for cover type bouncing around my head for years. I finally got to use it on this cover, which sets the style for the rest of the series.

Ancient Israel and Its Neighbors Canaan in the Second Millennium B.C.E. Ancient Israel's History and Historiography Essays on Ancient Israel in Its Near Eastern Context
In academic circles, when an esteemed scholar or professor approaches the end of his/her career, you'll often see what's called a Festschrift, literally, a "party-writing," where colleagues and students will write articles in honor of said scholar. One hopes there are other, less cerebral celebrations involved, as well, but I wouldn't know. I just design the book covers. In this case, we have three volumes of articles by Nadav Na'aman, and a Festschrift for the same. Obviously, I figured all of them should have a common visual theme.

Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles
This is, if I'm not mistaken, one of the first covers I ever did.

Babel und Bibel 2: Memoriae Igor M. Diakonoff Babel und Bibel 3
The editor didn't appreciate my attempts to liven up the series design (left), so I had to go back to the original color scheme on the next volume (right).

Beginning Biblical Hebrew
The background on this one is a piece of soapstone that's been run through a bandsaw. I love the texture!

Birkat Shalom Bridging the Gap Babylonian Oracle Questions Hittite Studies in Honor of Harry A. Hoffner Jr. on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday Images of Others Interpreting Discontinuity Introduction to Classical Ethiopic (Ge'ez) The Priest and the Great King

Bringing the Hidden to Light: The Process of Interpretation
Sometime, I really ought to write up the process of bringing this cover into being. It would be... illuminating.

Bulletin of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies - BIOSCS
For many years, I was limited to two inks, for cost reasons. This series uses only two colors — orange, and blue. You wouldn't know by looking at it.

Mystical and Mythological Explanatory Works of Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars Near Eastern Archaeology Now You See It, Now You Don't Old Testament Theology Adapa and the South Wind Reading the Book of Jeremiah Recent Developments in Hittite Archaeology and History Reconsidering Israel and Judah

Compendious Syriac Grammar
Oddly enough, this is one of my favorite covers. I'm not sure why.

Constituting the Community
One of the first instances where I created my own artwork for the cover, rather than using someone else's drawing or photograph.

Canaanite Religion according to the Liturgical Texts of Ugarit Chosen and Unchosen Cities through the Looking Glass Community Identity in Judean Historiography Judah and the Judeans in the Persian Period Judah and the Judeans in the Fourth Century B.C.E. Judah and the Judeans in the Neo-Babylonian Period

Creation and Destruction
A lot of people tell me this is their favorite cover. I like it too. The part I'm proudest of is that I managed to convey the idea of the Chaoskampf Theory (order-land arising from the chaos-sea) using only two colors and one repeated shape.

Cult and Character
I found a guy on-line, Sven Geier, who does these amazing fractals, and lets anyone use them. This one fit the book amazingly well.

David and Zion
I had fun masking all those branches on the Tree of Life. I spent hours on that one...

Confronting the Past Critical Issues in Early Israelite History Deuteronomic Theology and the Significance of Torah Dialect Geography of Syria-Palestine,   1000-586 BCE Early Ancient Near Eastern Law Eblaitica: Essays on the Ebla Archives and Eblaite Language, Volume 4 Agriculture in Iron Age Israel Milk and Honey

Exploring the Longue Duree
Another cover people have told me they really like. Apparently, I do seascapes well.

From Cyrus to Alexander From Cyrus to Alexander
One of my first "major" covers, in cloth and paperback. Those Persian warriors have since shown up in many. many places. One year, I suggested we make full-size cutouts of these guys, and have a place where you could put your head and poses as them. It was rejected because they thought people would actually do it...

From the Banks of the Euphrates From the Rivers of Babylon to the Highlands of Judah Law from the Tigris to the Tiber
From this river to that one...

Letters from Assyrian Scholars to the Kings Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal Letters from Assyrian Scholars to the Kings Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal
...and these scholar to those kings.

Introduction to Reading the Pentateuch Irenaeus and Genesis Israel's Past in Present Research Johnson Speaks to Us Journal of Theological Interpretation Lahav I. Pottery and Politics Le-David Maskil Leaving No Stones Unturned

Mishneh Todah
I later asked what the provided graphic of pottery and plants had to do with the subject. I don't recall that anyone knew.

Representations of Political Power
I had fun with this one, representing the "degrading social order" in the ancient near east in as close as I've ever gotten to "grunge" on an academic book cover.

Ashkelon 1 Ashkelon 2 Legends of the Kings of Akkade A Manual of Ugaritic

Ritual in Narrative
An early favorite, and the first use (that I know of) of stock photography on Eisencovers.

Sacred History, Sacred Literature Sacred Marriages Sacred Time, Sacred Place
Some things are Sacred. Some, doubly so.

Seeking Out the Wisdom of the Ancients
Some people say this one's boring. Me? I love the type.

Sefer Moshe: The Moshe Weinfeld Jubilee Volume
You can direct traffic with this cover.

Symbiosis, Symbolism, and the Power of the Past Text and History The Archaeology of the Early Islamic Settlement in Palestine The Biblical Saga of King David The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History The City of Ugarit at Tell Ras Shamra

The Eden Narrative
The author (in good humor) complained that more people were complimenting him on the cover than on the book. Sorry, Tryggve! I'll make 'em uglier next time.

The Edited Bible
For once, it was appropriate to break out the funky typewriter fonts!

The End of Wisdom
I put so much into this one. I created this beautiful epicrystallograph of a leaf I found in the yard, and then made up the word "Epicystallograph" (Greek, "writing against the glass") because "putting it on the scanner" just didn't communicate what I wanted. As people have since pointed out, making up words doesn't necessarily communicate, either. But, I still hold out some hope for my little neologism. I wished I could have used a metallic purple ink on this one — it would have given the leaf a sort of ethereal sheen — but I found out at the last minute that there's a heavy surcharge for using metallic inks. Bummer. I still love the way it came out, even if my vision was grander.

The Pentateuch as Torah
Here's another one where I really ought to write up the process of creation. I think the part that took the cake was when the editors insisted that, despite all the time I'd spent removing the text, they could definitely tell that it was from the gret Isaiah scroll from Qumran, and that they'd really prefer to have a section from the Pentateuch on there. Hence the addition of the fragment by the title...

The Reconstructed Chronology of the Divided Kingdom
Part of this cover involved a trip to the hardware store, and a puzzled clerk wondering what good three feet of rope was, and why I didn't want the ends dipped so that they wouldn't come apart.

The Reshaping of Ancient Israelite History in Chronicles The Retelling of Chronicles in Jewish Tradition and Literature The Sanctuary of Silence Ugarit at Seventy-Five War in the Bible and Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century A Syriac Lexicon


There's also a bunch where I frankly no longer remember if I did them or not:

I Studied Inscriptions from Before the Flood Joseph: A Story of Divine Providence Letters to the King of Mari Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography

...and a bunch I did for other publishers:

In Search of a Cultural Identity Legends, Tales, and Fables in the Art of Sogdiana Mediaeval Persian Painting Omar Khayyam the Mathematician Religion in Iran Sasanian Society well as a bunch of catalog covers and such, but I'm not counting those categories here.

Looking over this list, I'm not sure what to think. This represents ten years of a small part of my life, and in retrospect, I can't honestly say if it's well-spent, mis-spent, or just... spent. While it has some lasting value (in the sense that it's been a way to keep a roof over our heads, and food on the table) there's nothing about any of this work that would outlast one good fire. In spite of that, I have to admit: I enjoyed it.

On to the next hundred!


lightpaths said...

It is fun to see all the covers and see that some clearly took longer than others.

Jonadab said...

The Eden Narrative cover *is* really nice. The photo is great, the text looks good and is clearly legible even at a distance, and the use of transparency really brings it all out.

Does the Constituting the Community cover use two inks, or just one? Anyway, it's another of my favorites from the bunch. The custom artwork is visually distinctive and overall really works well. The text of the subtitle is a little hard to read against that backdrop, but I'm not entirely sure that's a problem; it might just lead to people looking closer to see what it says.

I like the Pentateuch as Torah cover, and I don't think one customer in five hundred will recognize the background scroll; nonetheless, the foreground fragment is if anything an improvement. I like the choice of textured blue for the bands.

I also like the use of color on Introduction to Reading the Pentateuch, though obviously that wouldn't be possible with two inks. Was that restriction lifted for some of the covers due to changing technology making full color covers cheaper, or did some books just get more budget than most?

I also like the overall design of the Interpreting Discontinuity cover, despite that I'm not crazy about the central artwork (the drawing itself, I mean). I'm finding it difficult to put into words what it is that I like about this cover, though, so maybe I just have weird taste or something.

johnsonweider said...

Wow, really neat! Thanks for posting all of the covers - it is an impressive body of work and very cool to see exactly what it is that you do. Congratulations for reaching the hundred book milestone!

Andy said...

@Jonadab: I can explain why you like the Interpreting Discontinuity cover. Just compare it to your preferred screen colors. Perfect match! Either that, or you're hungry for avocados.

Four-color work used to be several hundred dollars more expensive per cover, and had to be sent out to a different printer. Now the difference is in the low double-digits, and it's a lot easier to justify. And yes, some books do get more of a budget than others; some books are even subvented by the authors/editors/publication committee. The only reason that the Birkat Shalom covers have metallic ink on them (the crowns are gold) is because the editors paid for that extra feature themselves.

These days, it's about a 50-50 split between 2-color jobs and four, and I generally get to choose which fits the design better. Constituting the Community is a two-color job; I could have done it with one very-carefully chosen ink, but other areas would have suffered. I believe the Babel und Bibel covers are the only one-inkers on here, although it's highly possible that I only used one ink on Old Testament Theology and Reconsidering Israel and Judah.

The blue bands on The Pentateuch as Torah are just the scroll background in negative. It was one of those surprise discoveries that directs the rest of the design.

Andy said...

@lightpaths: Why is it fun to see that some took longer?

Jonadab said...

> Four-color work used
> to be several hundred
> dollars more expensive
> per cover

I assume you mean per cover design, not per copy. Still, for small-run publications, that would be significant, perhaps the better part of a dollar on the unit cost, which could have an impact on sales.

For larger runs, does the cost go up so that it still costs more per unit, or does the per-unit extra cost for full-color go down as the size of the run increases?

I would have guessed that Bringing the Hidden to Light was a one-color cover (unless those slight shade variations in the blue are more than just the JPEG compression artifacts I took them for), and probably the Syriac Grammar also. Speaking of Bringing the Hidden to Light, you've got me curious: did the editors have specific and imperfectly communicated notions about the font face and metrics, or what?

That's interesting about the negative effect for the bands on Pentateuch as Torah.

Andy said...

I don't doubt that there are some books where you add several hundred dollars of value per book by adding colors to the cover, but I don't work with those. It's spread out over the whole print job.

Nearly all printing goes down in unit price with increased print runs; the cost of set-up, platemaking, and wash-up gets spread over more units. Usually, by the time you get to 5,000 units or so, the increased savings are negligible, and it pretty much becomes $x per piece after that.

Bringing the Hidden to Light is a two-color; there's a fair amount of texture in the background. You might be able to see more of it by clicking through on the cover, going to the Eisenbrauns website, and bringing up the large view. Or maybe not. It's subtle.

That cover was a thorough battle between the editors, the publisher, and the designer, and even involved changing the name of the book, along with much smaller gripes. I think I can recreate the whole thing from the screenshots I took during the process.

The Syriac Grammar is two-color; tan and dark blue. It doesn't show well in the images.

Carolina Kerr said...

I didn't understand a lot of the discussion, but seeing the covers was great. Some of them really motivate one to want to read the book. In the cases where that motivation doesn't happen, it's mostly because no cover could ever motivate me to want to struggle through that book. Thank you for illuminating the process.

Linus said...

That is a little overwhelming to see all at once. Scrolling through that amount of work made me want to nap.

Jonadab said...

Ah, I had assumed the tan color on the Syriac Grammar was just the stock you printed it on.

I'm still not certain whether I'm actually seeing the texture on BtHtL. If I could see a higher-res or lossless version of the cover, I could be more sure. As it stands, the color variation I'm *certain* I'm seeing is, I'm pretty sure, (at least mostly) courtesy of the JPEG compression and not original to the cover itself. It's pretty hard to see subtleties through the considerable distortion that the lossy compression introduces.