assembling california by john mcphee

assembling california by john mcphee, front cover

my mom and i decided to see what was happening on the boulevard for atwater summer nights, and part of our stroll included a visit to alias books, a relatively new addition to the neighborhood that all my bibliophile friends are talking about [we even ran into one of them there that very night].

i am always confronted with a challenge in any book store, because 1 of a few things take over. either i shut down because i have already owned [and systematically let go of] so many books, or i want to buy everything that appeals to me because some kind of voracious collect all inspiring print matter book designer’s panic kicks in.

i have a complicated system for dealing with this, which has largely been to focus on a few things i’m allowed to collect. one of those is books on los angeles and california, of which i never tire. we have a whole shelf dedicated to books about california: travel, photos, history, hikes, national parks, essays and critical writing. so i found the california shelf and sure enough there were books on caves and wild plants and mining towns, all of which could not exactly come home with me.

assembling california by john mcphee, title

BUT! look at this one i settled on. thanks to my dad, i’ve already been reading some john mcphee, so i was able to doubly justify the purchase by an author of interest. his writing is intensely narrative while largely being non-fiction, and lots of it is about my homeland. the cover design is striking though, and not just because i love maps [don’t get me started on the copious map collection]. the design sits in this sweet spot between historic document, municipal information device, and frontier settler’s hand-kept ledger. it’s downright endearing.

assembling california by john mcphee, inside front cover

the design credit goes to cynthia krupat, about whom i can find relatively little information, despite much lauding of her setting the precedent for certain styles in book design. though there is this: how harry ford and cynthia krupat defined poetry book design for an era, from and she is credited in some of the publisher’s archives for whom she did design work. i wish she had a web site!

for the record, i’m really looking forward to actually reading this book as well, but i must admit, the first thing it got was a photo shoot.

assembling california by john mcphee, spine

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