Books · Inside HarperCollins India

Cover story: Here’s the design thinking that went into Harper Perennial’s ten special editions

Front_The Sea Lies Ahead

This year, HarperCollins India is celebrating ten years of Perennial, its dedicated imprint devoted to translations from Indian languages into English.

Fans and bibliophiles can look forward to owning a brand new range of ten of the most iconic titles published under the Perennial imprint. Till date, Harper Perennial has published over 90 titles, translated from fifteen languages (Urdu, Hindi, Bangla, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam, Odiya, Assamese, Gujarati, Punjabi, Marathi, Konkani, Kashmiri and Norwegian) and won numerous awards over the years.

‘As we were preparing a special Perennial catalogue, it struck us what a wonderful range of translated works we’ve had the privilege of publishing over the past decade,’ said Udayan Mitra, publisher – literary, HarperCollins. ‘We believe these are the finest we have published in Perennial, and decided to give them a series look that would foreground the power of the original languages the books were written in.’

The following books are part of the special editions’ list:

  1. The Liberation of Sita — Volga, tr. T. Vijay Kumar & C. Vijayasree
  2. Ghachar Ghochar — Vivek Shanbhag, tr. Srinath Perur
  3. A Life Misspent — Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’, tr. Satti Khanna
  4. Bhima: Lone Warrior — M.T. Vasudevan Nair, tr. Gita Krishnankutty
  5. Chemmeen — Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, tr. Anita Nair
  6. Hindutva or Hind Swaraj — U.R. Ananthamurthy, tr. Keerti Ramachandra & Vivek Shanbhag
  7. Wild Words: Four Tamil Poets — Malathi Maitri, Salma, Kutti Revathi, Sukirtharani, tr. Lakshmi Holmstrom
  8. Selected Poems — Joy Goswami, tr. Sampurna Chattarji
  9. The Sea Lies Ahead — Intizar Husain, tr. Rakhshanda Jalil
  10. Wild Animals Prohibited — Subimal Misra, tr. V. Ramaswamy

The most striking feature of these editions is its unique and uniform cover design. Designing each cover saw the involvement of a number of creative people.

 

Bonita perennial
Bonita Vaz-Shimray with the Harper Perennial catalogue. The Harper Perennial special editions are placed on the top row of the bookshelf.

 

Bonita Vaz-Shimray, art director, HarperCollins India said, ‘The idea of bringing out a special edition of our translated books was really exciting and it took me back to my days as a graphic design student, where I learnt to appreciate the alphabet and letters for their beautiful forms and counterforms.

‘The series is a celebration of the diverse languages that we publish into and I approached husband-wife duo Em + En, for their ability to transform script into art. Nikheel, a well-known calligrapher, created these beautiful textures and Maithily Doshi-Aphale took care of the overall packaging of the ten books, making sure that each book stood out uniquely as much as it belonged to a larger set.’

How did the team arrive at the decision to use a unique script on the cover, though?

‘A script is the visual representation of the language for me,’ said Maithili Doshi-Aphale. ‘Here we had a collection of different Indian languages (translated into English) and so many scripts which are all beautiful. Hence the idea of using the different Indian scripts on the cover emerged. Instead of writing random letterforms we decided to use a word or a phrase from the book.’

Maithili is happy that despite the use of scripts, the look for the series is very contemporary. ‘Bonita and I agreed to go with a modern calligraphic approach to represent each script,’ she said.

‘Nikheel’s calligraphic work is experimental. He uses the letterforms to create abstractions. So the text on each cover is treated like a beautiful backdrop of texture. The calligraphic compositions as well as colours on each book are different to avoid monotony and tied together by the stark white in the background.’

 

IMG_7073
Nikheel, the calligrapher.

 

The typeface used for the cover is Cormorant Garamond, a modern version of the classical and timeless Garamond.

‘I wanted it to be very subtle (understated) yet easily visible,’ Maithili said.

 

IMG_7091
Maithili Doshi-Aphale, reviews the artwork for each edition.

 

‘The most beautiful part about designing this series was that the whole collaboration between three visual people and their aesthetics, editors and the publisher was so effortless that I think it somewhere reflects in the work that has come out,’ Maithili said.

 

IMG_7096
All in a day’s work: Scripts, colours and language come together to give Harper Perennial’s special editions a unique, contemporary look.

 

Udayan agrees. ‘I love the way the special editions have turned out, conveying at once the unifying theme of translations into English and the diversity of the various languages and contexts the books originally come from. We hope readers will like the Perennial 10 editions as well, and want to further explore the great variety of the entire Perennial list of translations.’

Take a look at our gallery, featuring all covers that are part of this list:

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(Harper Perennial’s special editions are available at all leading bookstores, online and offline.)

One thought on “Cover story: Here’s the design thinking that went into Harper Perennial’s ten special editions

  1. These are some beautiful designs of some timeless books. A bunch of us bookstagrammers are doing a boook reading challenge through the month of April where we would read translated books from different parts of India (#LitWithRegionalLit). I would certainly pick up some of these book.

    Like

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