When this whole project started, we determined that Amaranthine Books will never take a book, illustrate a few scenes and send it to print. No, it has to have a concept behind the book, deeper meaning, symbolisms, secrets, internal logic… I guess with most of us coming from advertising background we were taught to think in the terms of the creative concept.
But first — research!
Sure, maybe most people won’t realise all the intricacies that went into the creation of our books, but they will surely feel it on some level. And even more importantly, for the small group of people that will dissect everything and look for all the details*, they’ll find a lot to be pleased about. Even more so, they’ll always on the lookout for such things in our books.
*And we know who is in the details.
With The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde we did the analysis of the book and began developing the concept. The book is, obviously, heavily influenced by duality. So much so that it inspired modern pop culture characters like DC’s Two-Face and Marvel’s Hulk. Thus it was decided that it would be a good idea to make two editions, one with white pages (Jekyll Edition) and the other with black (Hyde Edition). The content will be the same, but people will be free to choose which flavor they want or if they want the whole thing and get both.
That’s just scratching the surface, time to dig deeper
Furthermore, we defined key points in the plot and illustrated those moments, but with a twist. As Jekyll has his Hyde side, the illustrations should reflect that — that is why each illustration is double-sided, representing the same scene from approximately opposite angles. After all, there are always two sides to every story. The covers are also double-sided, with front showing Jekyll’s hand before drinking the potion and back showing Hyde’s transformed hand breaking that vial. We didn’t stop there, the box got the similar treatment — while on the front side there’s the title of the book, the back side also has the title but with Hyde’s claw marks all over it. That enabled us to create a sense of duality all over the book(s).
Fun fact is that early on we chose hands as a symbol of character’s personality (hands are featured in 11 out of 12 illustrations, plus both cover arts). It came to us from how the story was told, although it was not emphasised in the book itself, but hands usually do tell something about a person. This enabled us to show if the person is sick, worried, dead, panicked etc. Probably best example of it is Jekyll’s sickly hand hanging from the armchair while he sits in front of the fireplace.
That illustration also holds one of the easter eggs — one of the pictures above the fireplace is actually a picture of the writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, that we (inconspicuously!) placed in the illustration. Second easter egg are the shiny formulas on endpapers. They are all the same formula, just different sizes, and that formula is cocaine. We opted for it since Stevenson was on medically prescribed cocaine therapy due to illness at the time of writing of the book and it must have had some influence on his work. We even placed one singular formula at the end of the book, just to point it out if someone hasn’t connected the dots by then. The third easter egg is not in the book at all — it’s in the box! If you peek inside, you’ll see we hid a quote from the book: “If he be Mr. Hyde”, he had thought, “I shall be Mr. Seek.”
There is a special kind of joy coming up with a good creative concept for the book. Everything fits and it feels right while enriching the book. Art is no longer the supporting act, but stands side by side next to the immortal text that it attempts to enhance.
How it feels once you nail the concept.
That is why we solemnly swear never to publish a book that just has pretty pictures. Everything will be in the service of the creative concept which aims to enhance the written word that inspired it.