I’ve made a new book. It’s called Trails: a book about travel, history, and being a slug. It’s mostly a comic. I’m posting pages from it over on the Tumblr, if you fancy a sneaky peek inside.
At the time of writing it’s at the printers round the corner, so here’s a blog post about how I made the cover.
It’s made of cut and torn elements of an old map. Specifically, an extract from page 85 of The Oxford Atlas by Lewis (1951). Yes, I have ethical issues about destroying books of old maps. But listen, right, I think I’ve given this old map a good new home.
I bought it at a hoyge (that’s how the Geordies pronounce ‘huge’) charity book sale at the Linskill Centre, up the road. It was in a fairly sorry state. Torn cover, foxed paper, tears… yup, a sad book full of outdated maps. I wasn’t sure what I’d need it for, but I needed it, so I bought it for a pound.
Did you hear that?
I’ll blog when Trails is out abut the story of Trails and the meaning of Trails. In short, it’s a book about going back to California for a reunion after 12ish years of not being in California. I used my old guidebook, because I wanted to see how things had changed as much as I wanted to see any new things. I kept a travel sketchbook, which by and by got inked, scanned, and made into a book. And the book needed a cover, and the cover had to make sense in the scrap book-y, fragmentary, out of date world of the book. The cover needed to involve an old map.
I had an old map. A sad old map. I tore some bits of it and I cut other bits of it. I stuck them down, unstuck them, fiddled with them, scanned them, fiddled with them, started again on a sewn cover that was a pattern that kind of looked like a street map, then again on a part-drawn part-sewn cover, but no, I wanted the old map.
Did you hear that? Listen again. Can you hear it now? Yes, it’s the distant sound of a copyright awareness klaxon. Google didn’t give me a clear answer about who owns the copyright of maps: some have open licenses, others are very much owned by very litigious organisations. Some old images go out of copyright after a whole bunch of years, others probably don’t. The book of maps had a publisher’s name (Oxford University Press) and an editor’s name (Brigadier Sir Clinton Lewis), but no artist/author/cartographer or copyright or legalese information. I wasn’t sure. Then a wise comics sage voiced concern, and I felt brave, and I decided to seek Official Permission.
And I did, aaaand… it was no big deal. I filled in the form on the OUP website, explaining what I wanted to use and what it was for. I waited a while. I got twitchy about print deadlines so I phoned OUP’s Academic Permissions department to ask what the what was going on. The OUP Academic Permissions department were helpful and decided that my request to use less that 25% of one page of a c.200 page book of maps for a self-published comic book with a print run of 100 copies was not a threat to their world order. They granted me non-exclusive permission to use the extract and I have an official email to prove it.
I fiddled with the torn and stuck map a bit more, added small sewn details, added drawn bits, and scanned it. I fiddled with the contrast settings using Paint.net. I succeeded in my most ambitious Paint.net endeavour to date: I scanned in the full title of my book, layered it over the map, and made the letters pick up the map but be lighter than it. I’m not entirely sure how: I’m still working out how to do digital art stuff and whether I like doing it.