Micro Fiction

A few years ago, Yin Yin Wong came across the Dutch writer Jan Wolkers’s 1969 novel, Turks Fruit, in a dusty corner of a secondhand store. She had first read the book as a high school student, but now that she was studying graphic design, the cover, by Jan Vermeulen—with green-and-orange letters on a black background—had a new resonance. “Rereading it, I really felt that the design voiced exactly what the story was conveying,” she says. “The raw and erotic, slightly banal-looking type on the cover with the margins a bit too tight for comfort; the contrast, reminiscent of nightlife or something sexual—window signs or red lights—but the black background gave it something ominous.”

Jan Vermeulen book cover designs, writ small

Since then, she has been collecting Vermeulen’s mostly type-based covers for Wolkers. (The two had a long and productive collaboration, starting in the early 1960s and continuing until Vermeulen’s death in 1985.) When her class at Werkplaats Typografie began planning a retail installation for last fall’s New York Art Book Fair, she decided she would make exact replicas of six of Vermeulen’s covers—tiny wooden ones, sold out of a gumball machine for one euro each. “The problem for me with fairs is that there’s too much to see, and a lot of books are quite expensive,” she says. “Usually I get a bit frustrated and end up not buying anything. So I wanted to make something that didn’t cost much, that didn’t allow you to choose, and that still gave you something that you’d like to take home.”

Over three days, Wong cut out the covers and affixed them to 1.5 x 2–inch blocks of wood. The 200 she made quickly sold out during the fair, but full sets are still available through the Werkplaats Typografie bookstore and from Wong herself. She has no plans to make operational versions (“The idea of a really tiny book with really tiny pages and text that is barely readable makes me a bit queasy”), but she is mulling over expanding the project to Vermeulen’s other Wolkers covers. “I feel like the tiny set is a replica of my collection, so if my collection expands, the replica set should also expand,” she says. “But this would mean that I could never end the project until I’ve collected them all.”

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This article is from the February issue of Print. Purchase the issue, or download a digital version, from MyDesignShop.com.

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