In 2009, Jessica Hische (a featured New Visual Artist that year) started her Daily Drop Cap site, where she showcased a different hand-drawn letter each day. The site took off, and Hische’s creative lettering soon became her calling card.
Paul Buckley, the executive creative director for Penguin US, brought Hische’s work to the attention of Elda Rotor, the editorial director of Penguin Classics, and the two began thinking about creating a line of hardcover editions alphabetized by the authors’ names. Buckley and Rotor eventually came up with the vision for an entire rainbow spectrum of 26 books, from “A” to “Z.”
“Jessica’s work made us realize, ‘hey—there is a definite series idea here,’” Buckley says.
The result is a beautiful set and a fantastic collaboration. Each book cover subtly modulates from one hue to the next, with one of Hische’s custom letters printed using two colors of foil. The colors are also repeated in the stains that edge the pages.
The first book, “A,” for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, launched in December 2012, and the series wrapped up in late September. Each letter is different, with a subtle wit for each book: “D,” for Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, has ornate Miss Havisham–esque curlicues halfway up the plain heavy black “D”; a pair of shattered glasses stand in for the “G” on William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (a heart-breaking plot clue); a lacy “R” graces the cover of Salman Rushdie’s fairy tale Haroun and the Sea of Stories; and an eye looks out of the peephole of “O” for John O’Hara’s BUtterfield 8 (a wink at the promiscuous heroine).
“I have many favorites, but BUtterfield 8 absolutely blows my mind,” Buckley says. “It’s Jessica showcasing her ability to truly illustrate a letterform.”
Overall, the series is a lovely nod to the printed word—an unusual and intriguing twist to a personal project that got its start online.
To check out the full A-Z lineup of Penguin Drop Caps, click here.
This story was updated Oct. 24.
Print’s Typography & Lettering Awards
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