Brain Pickings

Litographs: Classic Books as Typographic Prints Supporting Global Literacy

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Literature and art converge to combat book famine and bibliowaste.

A modern paradox: While the developing world is experiencing the worst “book famine” in decades, an estimated 40% of books printed in the “developed world” go to waste, eventually destroyed by the publishers themselves. Having a tremendous soft spot for art and design projects inspired by literary classics, I love everything about Danny Fein’s Litographs project, which addresses this paradox through beautiful prints by a team of artists, made of upcycled classic texts, many in the public domain. The books remain fully legible in the final print. Thanks to a partnership with the International Book Bank, every print sold sends a book to a community in need.

The Moby-Dick litograph is the loveliest take on the Melville classic since Matt Kish’s page-by-page illustrations.

'Think not, is my eleventh commandment; and sleep when you can, is my twelfth.'

This 24 x 36 inch print (full view at top, close-up zoom at bottom) includes approximately the first third of Moby Dick. The 18 x 24 inch print includes approximately the first sixth of the book.

For a fine complement to the wonderful Beholding Holden artwork, a knock-out litograph of The Catcher in the Rye:

'What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though.'

This 24 x 36 inch print (full view at top, close-up zoom at bottom) includes the full text of The Catcher in the Rye. The 18 x 24 inch print includes approximately the first half of the book.

As a lover of all things Alice in Wonderland, the Alice litograph makes my heart sing.

'If everybody minded their own business, the world would go around a great deal faster than it does.'

This 24 x 36 inch print (full view at top, close-up zoom at bottom) includes the full text of both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. The 18 x 24 inch print includes the full text of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Though it’s hard to outshine Stefanie Posavec’s Writing Without Words project based on the Jack Kerouac classic, this On The Road litograph is quite lovely:

'I was surprised, as always, be how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.'

This 24 x 36 inch print (full view at top, close-up zoom at bottom) includes the full text of On the Road. The 18 x 24 inch print includes approximately the first half of the book.

'...for the shield may be as important for victory, as the sword or spear.'

This 24 x 36 inch print (full view at top, close-up zoom at bottom) includes approximately the first third of On the Origin of Species. The 18 x 24 inch print includes approximately the first sixth of the book.

All the litographs are available in color as well as black-and-white, and you can see the full full collection on the project site.

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