coulthart on viriconium

Over at Feuilleton John Coulthart has made a two-part forensically detailed analysis of past and potential covers for M. John Harrison’s Viriconium books. In the first part an examination of the cover-art he argues has let down and even misled those approaching Viriconium for the first time, and in the second a presentation of the cover as it might look published in the sleek livery of the Penguin Classic series.


He’s offered plenty of options, using works by artists, illustrators and photographers. As any regular at his blog will know, J. C. is an illustrator/designer of rich imagination and meticulous craftsmanship, tireless when seeking out the right presentation for an author’s work.

Pop over to Feuilleton to see Johns’s deconstruction of past covers and his suggestions for future editions. (there are links in the above text) He’s done such a damned fine job that I can’t even remain loyal to his covers featuring images from my own Mari Lwyd series, because any one of the artists he’s chosen would do the job very well. But it should be said that I particularly like his own poisonously elegant gold and black designs… shown at the top and tail of this post… and in any competition, I’d vote those my favourites. (particularly the top one)

Interesting that of all the new images he’s tried out, he’s left the Penguin Classics logo off his own work alone, as though demurring to add himself to such an illustrious publishing tradition. John Coulthart is made of absolutely the right stuff!

Update: from M. John Harrison’s own site, see THIS. I am in seventh heaven!

18 thoughts on “coulthart on viriconium

  1. Pingback: penguin come-a-calling | Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog:

  2. As usual John Coulthart’s “posts” (post seems too slight a word for such a thoughtful article/s) was incredibly informative. I confess I am unaware of the Harrison series, but if John admires the work then I must set about adding them to the pile.
    It is not at all difficult to favor the Red Line rendition, personal affection aside. I do like the Ernst but that very well be because I love Ernst.
    John’s covers are of course elegant but a bit chaste for my taste. In this instance only, generally I am wild for his designs.
    Happy to have read that the author himself unabashedly favored the design that featured your work.
    Concerning “taming”, Ernst was similarly tamed, I imagine you are tickled to be in such fine company.
    Take care,

    • Thanks, Leonard. My Ian Miller composite was restrained more from time than anything else. Compiling those posts took the better part of two weeks, and that’s between doing a regular posts per day and fulfilling all the work-related tasks. The Tarot idea is more like my usual style, or would be if I made those covers. But that would take a great deal of work.

      • Hi John,
        I hope I didn’t sound like a critical ass, that wasn’t my intent. I am familiar with some of your work, alas not as much as i would like to be. My memory was of its richness. I understand thoroughly time constraints, and as usual I doff my hat to the energy and enthusiasm you put into your wonderful site. It is a resource of great value to any aspiring aesthete.

        • Ha, no it’s fine. One useful thing about the time restraint was doing that cover in a hurry, it’s something I might not have done otherwise. Real or artificial restraints are often useful like that, they channel you in a direction you might otherwise miss.

          • Oh good, I was fretting a bit.
            The trouble with responding to a post is that I often find myself making comments between yapping dogs and household duties. Only after I have posted that I become aware of unintended harshness (or more often, mis-spelling).

            Thanks and take care,

  3. Enjoyed those–although, as I said elsewhere, it is strange for your Mari Lwyd pieces to be reduced in scale. Too much like taming, I suppose, though they make gorgeous covers/jackets. “Poisonously elegant”: that strange shade of yellow…

      • Hah. Surprised. I thought you would be too busy to read it as yet. But I will be downright shocked if you do as many as you did for “The Foliate Head,” Clive… Those and the interior pieces are a whole show unto themselves! Would be rather cool to have a show of the pieces when the book comes out, wouldn’t it?

        • Read Thaliad and am knocked off my feet by it! I’m cooking with the ingredients now, though I didn’t have long to let them marinade as Beth wants the cover… or a dummy of it, pronto. But luckily both you and I inhabit mental landscapes that the other is familiar with, and so I’m not floundering as I might with an unfamiliar poet. However, I can take more time with any interior decorations, which is just as well. Haven’t got a handle just yet on how they will be nor how many. I’m letting everything settle comfortably into the recesses of my mind. For me decorating a book of poetry is less about illustrating, than it is about singing in harmony.

          Even as I type, all the Foliate Head paintings and drawings are at the framer’s workshop, and so they’ll certainly be exhibited. It would be good to show them when the book is available. I’ll have to think about that.

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