Title: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Special editions published by Amaranthine Books
We love reading books. And as most readers will explain, even those of us who instinctively reach for the e-reader by default, the beauty of reading is not only in the story itself, and it goes far beyond a single sensory touch. First, we observe the book, and we take the book in our yearning hands as we inspect the weight of it. Then, perhaps, we slide our fingers near the edges of the spine, tracing all its little-hidden concavities and convexities. We raise the cover and admire the sensation of a book first opened, or opened for the thousandth time, and we listen to the spine’s tiny crepitations that form a musical sound like no other… The book is settling. Settling in our arms as the book is getting to know our unique caress as well.
We spell out the title, its font already cluing us into the story, like a new lover that likes to tease… Oh, and the smell. The smell is extraordinary, and recalls for us some of our most precious memories of diving into unknown literary worlds. We inhale and exhale desire. And once the reading starts, we already know this book. It’s familiar to us. We feel it in our senses. We feel it in our proverbial spines.
We are, as book lovers, addicted to its physical form at our very bookish cores. And this is why, my friends, real books, printed books will never die. Yes, they may evolve. And evolve they did.
I have never encountered a book, or books in this case, that mirror the spectacular feeling I’ve just described as much as this special edition of R. L. Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Amaranthine Books.
To review a story like “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, one cannot shy away from its unique and agelessly inspiring dichotomy. The duality of opposites feeds this novella and the story hungrily grows from it. There is no Jekyll without Hyde, there is no Hyde without Jeykll. This is reflected in the special edition’s visually contrasting versions – one a deep black, the other radiantly white. In my personal opinion, the enhancements to this classic ensures that I won’t ever think of this story without the illustrations and sense memories provided to me by Amaranthine’s creative team.
The experience of reading these books was deeply dualistic, and is designed as such. The Victorian atmosphere of the story is contrasted with a clean, modern design, simplistic in its grace. The horror of the events described are paired with the exquisite sensation of high-quality paper. The (for its time period) violent quality of the writing style is paired and contrasted with the sleek minimalism of the design. Even the beautiful artwork by Nebojša Cvetković that underscores certain situations in the book is dual – a page that asks a question, and another one that answers.
Amaranthine wishes not only to emphasize the reading experience but to elevate it. As Marko Matijašević, the founder of Amaranthine Books explains in the afterword:
The book is meant to function as a unified piece of art, with all the illustrations and details working toward the same goal – a concept that enhances the story.
The design team even left tiny Easter eggs all over the books, in little nooks and crannies, for the reader to find and to ignite their delight.
Stevenson wrote this book in a matter of days, bedridden with a cold, and (contentiously) under the influence of cocaine. The story is well-known; drinking a potion of his own making, Dr. Jeykll unleashes his inner darkness, personified in Mister Hyde, and the story escalates from there. The book was published in 1886 and was an instant success. More than a century later, it still manages to inspire whole generations of writers, artists, and thinkers. And today it inspired designers of Amaranthine Books to make this extraordinary special edition. They unleashed their inner talents and made a book they would love to show off on their own personal bookshelves.
These books are a passion project and a product of love. I felt it in my senses. I felt it in my own proverbial spine.
You can buy these books at Amaranthine Books webshop.