By Oscar Wilde
Art by Gareth Jones
Four Corners Books
350 × 285 mm, 128 pp
Nominated for Design Museum Designs of Year 2011
The first book in the Four Corners Familiars series.
‘The “Familiars” series, which commenced last autumn with an acclaimed new edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), designed by John Morgan to a concept and art work by Gareth Jones, is a bravura example of how an iconic book might be re-enacted. Returning, on the one hand, to the publishing history of Wilde’s novel, which first appeared in print on 20 June 1890, as pages 3–100 of Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, the “Familiars” edition restored the book to its physical form as a large-format, magazine-style publication. The pages turn over with languid ease, as though to the neat flick of a doubtlessly yellow-gloved hand. The phrase “A young man of extraordinary personal beauty” is printed on the pale blue cover in dense black letters. Wilde’s famous preface to his novel, in the form of a succession of aphorisms (concluding “All art is quite useless”), is printed in large italics, with entire pages and double-page spreads luxuriously given over to the rolling flow of each maxim and paradox. The effect is to refresh and dramatize one’s reading of the text, while also reminding the reader of the complexities of Wilde’s cultural enshrinement. And yet this is only one half of the artistic formula at work in The Picture of Dorian Gray as reconceived by Jones. By way of design, motif, typography and, most importantly, the inclusion within the text (as illustration) of advertisements for Gitanes cigarettes – originally made in the 1970s by the Hipgnosis advertising agency for UK print media and featuring suave, Gallically handsome male models – Jones re-routes the novel to both concepts of masculine beauty and the reclamation of Art Nouveau and Wildean foppishness within the subcultural pop styling and fashions of the early 1970s.’ (Michael Bracewell, Editions of You, Frieze 116, 2008)