Anansi Boys

Published by:

ISBN: 0-931771-12-90-931771-13-7
Edition size: 750 numbered52 lettered
MSRP: $240.00$N/A (see below)


What you see above is, apparently, evolution at work. These images were taken directly from pages of the defunct Hill House (HH) webpage for Anansi Boys. They illustrate and intimate a very stormy production, for what this book ultimately wound-up looking like is nothing like the above.

HH was one of the most notorious small presses on the planet. They created some of the most beautiful books to be found, but their production schedule was so erratic and chaotic that it became a minor miracle when they managed to actually get something out the door. Email inquiries were frequently ignored and sections of their website hadn't been updated in years. Anansi Boys is a prime example of a book that was Trouble (with a capital "T") ever since HH decided to have the printing done in Krakow, Poland in order to utilize real, not bonded, leather. Apparently, the whole experience was a royal PITA and HH vowed to never again outsource. Their next title, presumably The Martian Chronicles, was going to employ a U.S.-based printing house.

It is unclear to me when Anansi Boys was first solicited, but it was a long, long, long time in coming. Neil himself had to field numerous questions from concerned parties as to the status of titles like Anansi Boys due to HH's lack of customer interaction and scattershot status updates.

Fortunately, the results were quite remarkable. I think any fan of the novel would be ecstatic to own one of these books. At $240, it is very pricey, but given the high 750 print run, it should remain available from third parties for quite some time.

Unfortunately, no lettered edition was ever produced. HH went out of business before one could be manufactured. As such, the numbered edition of Anansi Boys was HH's swan song.

There was one other element of this edition tht I never received - what HH called the "big slipcase". This was designed to house both the current slipcase and The Notebooks. I've heard rumors that this slipcase WAS produced in very limited numbers (far less than 750), but I've yet to find concrete confirmation that any were actually manufactured. My own attempts to obtain one direct from HH was met with failure, as HH never returned any of my emails (their doors were probably already shuttered by that point). A mockup of this slipcase was posted to HH's website.

As with almost any production reviewed on here, there were a few things that bothered me, and one aspect that was outright disturbing. First off, HH decided to commission a separate publication - the aforementioned softcover entitled The Notebooks. This material could've instead been bound in with the main book. This was doubly costly for HH, as, apparently, the Polish printer royally screwed things up and made the slipcases too small to accommodate both it and the primary book. However, given that the trim size of The Notebooks EQUALS that of the entirety of the already-produced slipcase, I don't know how HH could've commissioned a single slipcase which could've housed both without there being a significant gap between the ceiling of the slipcase and the top of the main book. As such, it actually makes the "big slipcase" a necessary element for the entire production.

The other HUGE problem I have is how the art is presented and included. Each plate is only about half the size of the page. As an art freak, looking at what amounts to a "palm-nail" seems a bit cheap and wastes a lot of available page real-estate. But perhaps the biggest issue I have is that the plates are laid-, not tipped-, in. They are affixed to their respective pages using glue at the head and foot of each plate. There are three beefs I have with this approach:

That said, I've been informed, in no uncertain term, that this was a sign of class and elegance and this is how plates were traditionally included with books of old. Understand that I'm all for tradition when it adds real value and superior workmanship to a product, but I simply don't see how this is in any way better than tipping-in plates. It may look somewhat interesting, but I stand by my aforementioned statements.

Other than the above two detractions, I really can't find any other faults. Well, an embedded bookmark would've been nice....

Some disclaimers about the following pics. When I first began taking snapshots, I tried to use a lighting system that I thought would improve things, but was instead a huge hindrance. As a result, several images came out looking very yellowish, as if the book had been rotting away in a dusty basement for the last hundred years. Between the time I discovered that these pictures would be unusable and doing the necessary reshoots, I Brodarted the book. Brodarting a book without a DJ is a colossal PITA, so I wasn't about to remove it for the reshoots. This is why some images show the Brodart jacket and some don't.

You'll probably notice that I kept some of the first-round pics, as they weren't so bad to be completely unusable. Indeed, the one of the interior art page showing the embossing did so better than any of my retakes, so it remains. Enjoy!

- N U M B E R E D -

The included note which documents the omission of the "big slipcase", with instructions on how to obtain one if it doesn't appear within two months of receiving the book.

The front of the slipcase with the circular medallion made of burled wood. Note how this differs from the original conception (pictured at the top of this page).

The slipcase spine. This also differs, as there's no affixed label.

And the back of the slipcase.

A close-up of the medallion, showing the two spiders.

The interior of the slipcase with HH's signature pull-out ribbon.

The front of the supplemental material, entitled The Notebooks. Great care should be taken with this production, as it has a black matte finish that, according to HH, can be easily scuffed. I wish HH had simply included this material with the main volume.

The back of The Notebooks (plain black).

The title page. As with the softcover for American Gods, it is serialized to "mate" with the main book, but not signed.

The next page of The Notebooks.

Page 5 of The Notebooks, which begins an interview with Neil. Unfortunately, this pic didn't turn out very hot. ;(

Ah, and here we go! The face of Anansi Boys, showing the beautiful onlay and the quarter-leather binding. The other 3/4 is composed of black Japanese linen. Again, note how this differs from the original design.

The spine. This is actually the correct orientation, as the embossed logo is at the top of the spine.

A close-up of the embossed "AB" logo. Note that I had already Brodarted the book at this point.

The back of the book.

A close-up of the binding.

The front endpapers. Ah, I LOVE designs! The bird is, as you can see, entirely composed of letters spelling-out various aspects of the novel.

The half-title page. As an arachnophobe, all this spider stuff is beginning to creep me out! Note that the spider and its thread is printed with a blacker-than-black ink.

The title page, citing Dagmara Matuszak as the illustrator.

The signed limitation page, showing Neil's bold Hancock with Dagmara's just below. Careful examiners will notice that the eye of the bird is in color.

The dedication page.

The copyright page. Notice the subtle watermark of a spider hanging by its thread.

Each page of the body sports a spot-color starfish.

Pages 140 & 141, showing the font used, margins, and line spacing.

A random interior illustration shot. As you can see, the painting only occupies a little more than half of the available area of the page. This also differs from what HH had originally planned for these pages, as evidenced HERE (see page 9).

A close-up of the illo.

A retouched shot successfully showing the spiderweb header embossing. A neat touch.

I've already discussed this in my preface, but this is what I meant by it being possible to tear the plate away from the page. Sorry, but I'm just not a fan of this affixing method.

The final shot of the back endpapers. Note that this is an entirely different design than what was used for the front. Excellence at work!