'The Books of Jacob' by Olga Tokarczuk

I’m just going to put it out there…I’m a total sucker for epic, 1000+ page doorstop books. I love the feeling I get when I finish a mighty tome like Infinite Jest or Against The Day. So obviously, I was beyond stoked when I found out Olga Tokarczuk’s new book was going to be one such behemoth. I had read a couple of her previous works like ‘Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead’ and ‘Flights’ and was already a major fan. Then I found out that she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for ‘The Books of Jacob’ and my anticipation rose to a fever pitch. The first English translation appeared in the UK from Fitzcarraldo Editions and I immediately ordered a copy. Fitzcarraldo is a really cool publisher that publishes a lot of unique stuff and all their books have a striking blue design and are all paperbacks bound in the classic “French wrap” style. I’m not a big paperback fan but I was willing to make an exception seeing as the US hardcover wasn’t due for another year.

The Fitzcarraldo Edition

Flash forward to that release a few months ago and I couldn’t believe how disappointed I was. Not in the book itself, it’s absolutely fantastic and a modern masterpiece. No, my disappointment was in the quality of the binding. The paper stock is super thin and cheap feeling, the binding is loose, and even though I bought it brand new at the store, it already had shelf wear due to the cheap materials. Unfortunately, this seems to be a trend among any mass produced new release these days. I shouldn’t have been surprised but I guess I was hoping that a novel that just won the Nobel Prize would be treated with a little more pomp and circumstance. The Fitzcarraldo edition, despite being a paperback, is a better production in every way. The paper stock is thicker and higher quality. The printing and design is infinitely superior (I love the house font that they use). I made up my mind that I would just re-bind my UK paperback so I could have a nice hardcover in my library. Then it occurred to me that I could do more.

Comparison between the UK and US 1st Editions

I’ve decided to push back the next planned Optics Press book (don’t worry Miracleman fans, it’s still coming!) and focus on a project that’s more current. Over the last few months, I’ve managed to acquire 10 copies of that Fitzcarraldo edition. These are the true English first editions. Oh, and did I mention that they’re all signed by Olga Tokarczuk?! I am going to completely disassemble these books and rebind them from the ground up into a fine press edition. I’m sparing no expense when it comes to the appointments. Those include custom marbled covers and endpapers that I commissioned from a master marbler in the UK, ¾ leather binding with raised bands, a fold out map of 18th century Poland, all the other high quality features you’ve come to expect from The Optics Press, and even a couple more surprises. I feel that this is an incredibly important book and want to showcase that in the binding.

The custom signature bookplate

I’m going to be diving headfirst into this project in the next couple weeks so be sure to follow Optics Binding on Facebook to see all the progress posts.

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