When it came time to design the look of the recently released Faber Nature Poets series, Faber & Faber senior designer Eleanor Crow had a wealth of history to draw on.
In 2009, as part of its 80th anniversary commemoration, the British publisher released a series consisting of six hardcover collections of 20th century poetry. Miriam Rosenbloom, who was senior designer at the time, hired a different printmaker for each title to produce a cover and contrasting endpapers; Claire Curtis’s work for T.S. Eliot: Selected Poems, is below.
Other poetry series featuring Rosenbloom's design concepts followed, including 2010’s Faber Firsts and 2011’s Faber Romantics. Jonathan Gibbs did the print work for Dart by Alice Oswald, below, part of the Faber Firsts series.
When Rosenbloom left the company and moved to Australia, Eleanor Crow picked up her mantle. For the six Faber Nature Poets titles, Crow says she “loosely followed” the mode of Rosebloom’s series, also taking inspiration from lithographic prints from the 1920s–1950s, for their "soft textures in subtle palettes contrasting with some harder, sharper detail." Below, an image from the Feodor Rojankovsky-illustrated Scaf the Seal (1936), and an image from Tatiana Glebova's Where Am I?, completed in 1928 and published for the first time this year by Redstone Press.
Crow selected six printmakers for the six titles, picked out one or two relevant poems from each anthology for the printmaker to work with, and created a color range from which the printmakers could choose between three and six colors to use. Each cover also features a red accent, to tie the set together. Though “nature” was the common thread in the series, Crow says, “I wanted each cover to also feature a manmade item— a building, a boat, wires, ploughed fields, etc.” Andy Lovell’s cover for John Clare (below) references Lolham Brigs, which recurs in Clare’s work, and the flooding at the old stone bridge.
For Edward Thomas (below), Crow and printmaker Neil Bousfield evoked the Gloucestershire/Oxfordshire border described in the poem “Adlestrop.” “We wanted to show it in dry summer,” Crow says, “with the fields in patterns—some ploughed, some planted—with a tiny hut or train station.” The 1910s telegraph poles depicted on the cover repeat in the endpaper.
One of Crow’s early inspirations for the series has a direct descendent in the cover for Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which interprets the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. “I loved the Tatiana Glebova print of the ship in the ice so much,” she says, “and I asked Ed Kluz to come up with his own interpretation of the image, but with reference to the text of the poem.”
Kluz was the only printmaker Crow had worked with before, but they all, she says, “produced beautiful ideas and rough sketches, despite the many particular requirements of the brief. Printmaking takes a lot of time and forethought, so we worked with drawings to establish the ideas before they set to work on the final prints."