Max Beerbohm’s Zuleika Dobson; William Heinemann, London (1978).
Penguin these days is publishing some very attractive collector’s editions of famous novels. I was recently in one of the local corporate bookstores and took a copy of Pride and Prejudice from the shelf to admire the cover art. As lovely as it looked from the outside, however, the quality of the typeface – digitally perfect, utterly regular – was a turn off.
If we’re to fall fatally in love (with a book, with a person), some irregularity of features is needed. “There is no excellent beauty,” Francis Bacon wrote, “that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.” Consider Zuleika (and Zuleika):
Perhaps it’s hard to tell by the photographs here. You’ll have to trust that I was instantly smitten with this book. The flimsy, fading dust jacket and loose binding; the high quality of the paper combined with the smudged, uneven application of ink; the inspired choice of typeface, with the upturned ‘e’ that recalls Zuleika’s own “shapely tilt of the nose” – it all adds up to something irresistible.