For the design geeks - the making of a modern 'forbidden book' January 20 2014

As I was undertaking research in the British Library 'Rare Books' department, I sought out in particular one very special book. That was the manuscript copy of the Victorian 'erotomaniac' Henry Spencer Ashbee, a book he called 'Index Librorum Prohibitorum', or 'Index of Forbidden Books' (1877).

It included some of the most important passages on the Dominatrices of the preceding era, then known as Governesses or 'female flagellants'. I had to get special written permission from the curators of the British Library, with a time allocated to view, for which the book was drawn up from the deep, to be collected from the room's long desk, like an altar. I had to view it under video camera surveillance, and handle it with extreme care due to its fragility.

The book itself is beautifully produced to Ashbee's specifications, with scarlet red headings. It evokes the history of the 'forbidden books' which circulated between friends in Georgian and Victorian times.

So, when it came to designing 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix', I managed to actually locate a rare copy of Ashbee's 1877 volume for inspiration, from an antiquarian book dealer. I arranged to courier the book over to New Zealand as a gift, to the offices of Anna Egan-Reid, book designer extraordinaire. Where she drew inspiration from its features; a nod to the historical format, while ensuring it retained a strongly contemporary feel.

Anna Egan-Reid has won awards for her book design, formerly while at Penguin Books, and now she works for her family-run company (with sister Sophia, and mother Mary Egan). You can see some of the features of 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix' below:

* Gold leaf Victorian frame

* Belly band extolling limited first edition

* Scarlet ribbon marker

* Scarlet red headings

* Specially chosen typographic fonts (read Anna's blog below for her 'eureka' moment)

* Dominatrix 'props' discreetly positioned in four corners of the frame

 

 

 

 Detail images of 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix' by Anne O Nomis

(Images courtesy of Anna Egan-Reid, of Mary Egan Publishing)

 

For design geeks (and we put ourselves in that group, Anna and I), you can read Anna Egan-Reid's own blog entry 'How We Whipped the Dominatrix Into Shape': http://maryegan.co.nz/articles/how-we-whipped-the-dominatrix-into-shape/