Monday, April 30, 2007

Alexander the Great

When I started this blog I said it would be my opportunity to prove all those editors and art directors who ever rejected a comp of mine wrong--but here's a case where writing the blog made me come to terms with the fact that they were probably right in the first place.

This one’s a might-have-been. None of my designs got used—they wound up going with a photo from Oliver Stone’s Alexander, which was going to be coming out around the same time. But I guess somebody at the publisher didn’t like them, because I haven’t done another book for them since. And looking back, I can kind of see why—they’re a little too high concept for what I understand is basically a fairly straightforward history book, and they don’t exactly scream violence and conquest in any sort of saleable way.

So. First, I tried one using Alexander’s crest, the sun from the flag of ancient Macedonia. It’s pretty simple and straightforward, and nothing to write home about.



Bringing in the helmet from a sculpture didn’t do much to help matters.



And then there’s this one:



That last one I’m still fond of, mostly because I think it’s a fun take on one of my favorite (probably apocryful) historical stories. If you don’t get the reference (and admittedly, I don’t think anyone I’ve ever showed this to has gotten the reference immediately, which is how I know this cover is much too clever for its own good), it’s the story of the Gordian knot, the short version of which is this: there was a particular knot in the city of Gordium that was supposedly impossible to untie, and it was prophesied that whoever could untie this knot would go on to become King of all Asia. Others had tried and failed, but Alexander, upon encountering the problem, whips out his sword and slices the knot in half—voila. Good old fashioned lateral thinking.

Anyway, that’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Alexander, so I gave it a shot. I also quite liked the way the type sat on there, calling out the “A” and “X,” which somehow seems appropriate though I couldn’t quite tell you why. But like I say, it was rejected, and probably with good reason. Still, I’ve always thought it would be a great cover for a novel called Alexander the Great—particularly if that novel wasn’t about the historical Alexander, but just used that as a central metaphor somehow. Anyone want to write that book for me?

6 comments:

Ed Howard said...

Love that last Alexander cover, and just for the record, I got the reference immediately. Which I guess just means we have the same associations about Alexander the Great.

Eric Skillman said...

Ed--

Well, thanks! Glad to know I'm not alone in that.

India said...

They are purty, but the two with the suns are hard to read, and the one with the knot looks more like a poetry book to me. A classy poetry book—like, Seamus Heaney, or something—but still, a poetry book.

mjmiller925 said...

Has been fun to get a peek at your design process. Looking forward to future posts.

Charles Reilly said...

W. W. TARN: Alexander the Great and theUnity of Mankind. (From the Proceedingsof the British Academy, vol. XIX.) Pp. 46.London : Milford, 1933. Paper, 2s. 6d. IN this thoughttul and thought-compelling paper Dr. Tarn presents Alexander in a somewhat unfamiliar light as the first propounder of the gospel of universal goodwill among mankind. The main lines of his argument are that ( I ) Alexander visualized nothing less than this ; (2) among earlier Greek thinkers 6p6uoiawas usually meant to begin and end at home ;(3) the Stoic 6p6vora was in the first instance borrowed from Alexander, and then reduced from a vital force to an inert gas by equation with the pre-existent cosmic harmony. The crux of this theory may be sought in Eratosthenes'account of Alexander's philosophy(quoted by Strabo, 1. 66). Here Alexander's 6pbvora is confined to the select class of cd85~ipoi&v8per. But the context suggests that (unlikethe Stoics) Alexander reckoned the sheep as far more numerous than the goats. Dr. Tarn admits that the germs of Alexander's idea might be found in earlier Greek thought. It may be worth recalling that Alcidamas reckoned all men as @v'ucr ihehBrpor, and that Isocrates sold the pass of Greek privilege when he defined Hellenism as a matter of culture,not of race. But, as Dr. Tarn aptly insists, Alexander's o,u^voza connoted more than absence of racial privilege, and the king reckoned it his duty not merely to recognize fraternity which others had brought about, but himself to sow its seeds on every soil (except the stoniest). Dr. Tarn's paper confirms the view which he has put forth elsewhere-a view also expressed in Wilcken's great work on Alexander-that the Macedonian king was not only one of theancient world's great practitioners, but one of its great visionaries. ,V.CARY.C'niversity of London.

Anonymous said...

W. W. TARN: Alexander the Great and theUnity of Mankind. (From the Proceedingsof the British Academy, vol. XIX.) Pp. 46.London : Milford, 1933. Paper, 2s. 6d. IN this thoughttul and thought-compelling paper Dr. Tarn presents Alexander in a somewhat unfamiliar light as the first propounder of the gospel of universal goodwill among mankind. The main lines of his argument are that ( I ) Alexander visualized nothing less than this ; (2) among earlier Greek thinkers 6p6uoiawas usually meant to begin and end at home ;(3) the Stoic 6p6vora was in the first instance borrowed from Alexander, and then reduced from a vital force to an inert gas by equation with the pre-existent cosmic harmony. The crux of this theory may be sought in Eratosthenes'account of Alexander's philosophy(quoted by Strabo, 1. 66). Here Alexander's 6pbvora is confined to the select class of cd85~ipoi&v8per. But the context suggests that (unlikethe Stoics) Alexander reckoned the sheep as far more numerous than the goats. Dr. Tarn admits that the germs of Alexander's idea might be found in earlier Greek thought. It may be worth recalling that Alcidamas reckoned all men as @v'ucr ihehBrpor, and that Isocrates sold the pass of Greek privilege when he defined Hellenism as a matter of culture,not of race. But, as Dr. Tarn aptly insists, Alex ander's o,u^ voza connoted more than absence of racial privilege, and the king reckoned it his duty not merely to recognize fraternity which others had brought about, but himself to sow its seeds on every soil (except the stoniest). Dr. Tarn's paper confirms the view which he has put forth elsewhere-a view also expressed in Wilcken's great work on Alexander-that the Macedonian king was not only one of theancient world's great practitioners, but one of its great visionaries. ,V.CARY.C'niversity of London.