Next April sees the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë, and in celebration, Vintage Classics have reissued Jane Eyre alongside Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by her sisters Emily and Anne.
With reissued classics, the content will already be widely available and so there naturally needs to be a heavy focus on the covers and production. It’s essential to give printed titles a treatment which breathes new life into the work. Something covetable and sensorially pleasing is required in this age of cheap or free digital files. The chunky cut-down format of these makes them feel like pocketable treasures, and the uncoated flapped covers not only feel and smell amazing (yes, I’m one of those people) but fold back to reveal further artwork. A poorly looking bee and pair of birds in the case of Wuthering Heights.
Sarah Gillespie is the artist whose work was chosen to illustrate the new editions, she spoke to Vintage about her dark and dreamy imagery:
“No one can deny the emotional power of colour, but in recent years, perhaps in search of a quieter voice, I have chosen to work only in black and white, umbers and subtle shades of grey. Something interesting is always revealed in renunciation; the images demand a different form of looking from the immediacy offered by more strident colours.
It leads to the emotional delicacy I am looking for, hoping in my work to offer quieter intimations of frail beauty, fleeting pleasures, the delicate poetry of a shadow. Drawing in this way requires a willingness to be still, an emptying of the self, a stepping aside, an unfashionable degree of restraint in order to make something more like a mirror, or lens of oneself. What is revealed in return is a world of dancing atoms and temporal fragility, of moths, blossom, hares and birds, whose cycles of life and death so often remain invisible to human eyes, hidden within the enormity of the landscape or the dark of night, such as the Brontë sisters knew.”
Such an antidote to the garish glitter and lights of the festive season, I couldn’t think of more perfect, true winter reading. I can just picture them, stacked together on my bedside table… I COVET, DAMN YOU. It also means I’ll be introduced to The Tenant of Wildfell Hall which I am less familiar with and likely wouldn’t have picked up. Mission accomplished.
Brontë reissues published by Vintage Classics, available now at £7.99 each:
Sarah Gillespie: sarahgillespie.co.uk