Books Borges never wrote


Design by Hector Haralambous.

The composition of vast books is a laborious and impoverishing extravagance. To go on for five hundred pages developing an idea whose perfect oral exposition is possible in a few minutes! A better course of procedure is to pretend that these books already exist, and then to offer a resume, a commentary… More reasonable, more inept, more indolent, I have preferred to write notes upon imaginary books.

Jorge Luis Borges

Borges was true to his intention in scattering invented volumes throughout his work, a number of the ficciones either have invented books as their subjects or use them to propel the narrative. Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius is perhaps the most elaborate example, the story in which Borges invents an encyclopedia which is itself being invented to prove a philosophical point. My favourite Borges site at The Modern Word has a page detailing some of the imaginary volumes. Invented books naturally suggest invented book covers. Several years ago another Borges site took up the challenge for the latter which is where the examples above and below originate. The site is now defunct but its pages can be seen mostly intact thanks to the Internet Archive. The book covers are here and here. The designs for the most part could have been better, although they don’t look any worse than some of the poorly-designed covers for genuine books now flooding the web thanks to print-on-demand and electronic publishing.


Design by George Kranitis.


The Spanish language edition of the Thackery T Lambshead Pocket Guide to Invented and Discredited Diseases (1977).

All of which reminded me of my own fake Borges covers from 2003, supposedly Borges’ own compilations of The Thackery T Lambshead Pocket Guide to Invented and Discredited Diseases, the fake disease guide edited by Jeff VanderMeer and Mark Roberts. These were created in colour but printed in black-and-white. Since they’ve appeared here before I’ve included links this time to larger copies. In a detail that Borges might have appreciated the idea for the disease guide came about after Modern Word editor Allen B. Ruch, who often manifests as The Great Quail, remarked to Jeff VanderMeer that “I think I have contracted Mad Quail Disease”. You have to be cautious with casual quips to writers, you never know where they might lead.


An English paperback reprint of the Borges edition (1979).

Update: While we’re on the subject… Remember the Fake Books from The Royal Tenenbaums? Here They Are!

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The book covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Borges and I
Recovering Viriconium
Forbidden volumes
Pasticheur’s Addiction

Portuguese Diseases


This volume appears to be in print now, the Portuguese edition of The Thackery T Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases, a unique fantasy anthology compiled in 2003 by Jeff VanderMeer and Mark Roberts. The new edition is published by Saida de Emergência and translated by Luís Rodrigues, João Seixas and Vítor Morta. I didn’t design this cover with its eccentric kerning but I did design the original edition for Night Shade, to date still one of my most elaborate and detailed book designs, too elaborate for the larger publishing houses, in fact, who either dropped or amended the deliberately diseased title spread for their paperback editions. You can see some of the original pages below. I sent the Portuguese publishers all the artwork and layouts but since I haven’t seen a printed copy of the book I don’t know how the interior looks. I don’t even know whether my name appears on the cover as it does here since other examples online show a different design. However, it’s often the case these days that cover designs get sent out prematurely for marketing purposes before things have been finalised.


Title spread.


Contents spread.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Pasticheur’s Addiction

Pasticheur’s Addiction


The Boojum Press edition of the Guide (1997).
(Frame supplied by Mark Roberts.)

A few days ago we had the CD cover meme which encourages people to create cover designs for invented groups generated by random means. In a similar vein but minus the random element there’s the growing selection of books by reclusive author Constance Eakins. A Flickr pool has been established for newly-discovered Eakins volumes and you can read more about the mysterious writer here.

This flourishing of pasticheury encourages me to post some of the cover designs I created for the various editions of The Thackery T Lambshead Pocket Guide to Invented and Discredited Diseases, a fake disease guide published in 2003 and edited by Jeff VanderMeer and Mark Roberts. The anthology featured a host of notable contributors and was great fun to work on. Although these were done in colour, they were all printed in black & white inside the book, with a shrunken glimpse of the colour versions on the rear of the dust jacket. My jacket design wasn’t used on subsequent printings so this is the first many people will have seen of these.

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