designing alphonse


Alphonse Allais’s only novel has just been translated into English by Doug Skinner and will be published later this year by my press, Black Scat Books. It was originally issued in France in 1899, and it remains popular and in print. Indeed, it has been adapted to film four times.


The above lettering examples are how I imagined  the original typography might look. I then deep-searched the web and found a reproduction of the book’s title page which (as you can see below) avoids the ornate.



Having published and designed half a dozen books by Allais, I first had to decide my approach to the cover, since that establishes how I proceed with the interior. Research online revealed approximately 40 editions, only a few of which captured my  imagination. Most were dull type treatments. The ones with illustrations did not excite my eye, with a couple of exceptions.



Here are a few of the covers I found. I like the comic figure bottom right, used on a French eBook.


My own previous Allais covers feature illustrations, but I was inclined to emphasize typography this time. After all, The Blaireau Affair  is a novel and not a collection of texts, so it could stand apart from the others. The story is, of course, humorous, but I decided to go with a more ‘serious’ look, I’d add one small graphic element like an ironic afterthought.

I wanted the look and feel of  a novel that might have been published in the 1930s, early40s by Knopf. I was operating on a vague feeling—I had no specific cover in mind. I did not go searching for old Knopf covers, although it would be fun to do so now. Let’s see what’s there…

[insert delay]

mm, well I like both of these—especially the design for The Thin Man (1934). Alas, can’t find a credit for the artist.

And here’s my cover unveiled.


For the title font I used Vigneta, an elegant, handmade script created by designer Ilham Henry. For subs, I employed two of my old standbys: Lionel Text Diesel and Bebas, These three specimens play very nicely together.

The le glaçage sur le gâteau is the little badger woodcut, which I also use at the start of each chapter.

UPDATE 12/25/15

As it turned out, the above was not the final cover, for I added some air around the author’s name. Final front and back:


The book was launched Aug. 31, 2015 and is available on Amazon.

1 thought on “designing alphonse

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