Birilliant Bestiaries: the power of crowdfunding

Summer simmers down to cool, clear autumn. Whether that will be a sun-dappled autumn, blessed with the trees’ crimson canopies, or a fall rain-addled and foul, has yet to be seen.  At this turn of seasons, however, I would like to discuss two books illustrating the contrasting seasons – summer and fall – perfectly. Two books filled to the brim with fabulous beings. Books that came into being through the power of crowdfunding. Bo books very different in execution, yet both of them gorgeous. Two brilliant bestiaries. I’d like to talk about Faeries of the Faultlines (Summer) and De Wolffs Bestiarium (Fall).

A summer most Fair(y).

Good things are happening in the writing world of the Netherlands. Passion projects are seeing daylight, somtimes through traditional means – through publishing houses – and sometimes because authors dare to take a gamble and publish on their own. Iris Compiet is one of those authors, her latest book Faeries of the Faultlines showcasing the succes attainable through self-pubbing: no sooner does a new batch of books goes up for sale at her website, or they all get snatched up in mere minutes. (I admit, Compiet is an artist, not primarily a writer. But she is for the purposes of this blog, because it is her florid prose that ties the Faeries of the Faultlines together.) And her succes is well-earned. As it often goes, I stumbled upon the kickstarter for her project too late. Luckily, its goals had already been met and the project was coming through. As soon as the first edition was being packed and shipped to the backers, I started harrassing miss Compiet with questions about how and when the book would be available for non-backers. Two weeks ago, my patience was finally rewarded and the book landed on my doorstep, causing excitement in both me and my doorstep. Apparently, he likes artwork too. (Source: faeriesofthefaultlines.com)

Larary?

Faeries of the Faultlines is not a bestiary, technically, because it does not sum up animals. It’s more like a… Alfary? Larary? Whatever the name is for a book listing the different types of faeries. Following in the footsteps of such legends as Brian Froud and Alan Lee, Compiet breathes life into her speckled and dappled array of Greenmen, Fauns, Kelpies, Gnomes, Trolls, etc. She does this through her vibrant use of colour, her florid prose and the many insights she offers into the world of Faery: how Mandrakes can be hushed to sleep, or how Bookwyrms use the ink from the books they eat to colour their furs. A must-have for fans of the finely illustrated works on Faery, that great and elusive realm parallel to ours. The only complaint I have with this book is that it’s short. I feel Compiet could have added more stories on the Faeries she draws for our mortal eyes. We want more.

A critter-filled Fall

Another book I recently had the joy of receiving – after an extended period of anxious breath-holding – is De Wolffs Bestiarium, a collaboration between author/poet Martijn Adelmund and illustrator Maarten de Wolff. (Yes, the artist’s name is in the title. Here starts the layer of meta that permeates the book). With this book, my involvement started in the crowdfund-phase, after seeing the fundraiser-show at the Day of the Fantastic Book 2018. I was gripped by the witticisms of Adelmund’s writing and the eerie, crawling imagery of De Wolff. I wanted to know how their collaboration would turn into a book, and so I added my modest donation through voordekunst. Almost a year and a half went by before I held this book in my hands. The project had been delayed for various reasons, but the result was none the worse for it. A four hundred page fiesta of prose and poems, footnotes and drawings and, of course, beasts. Lots and lots of beasts.

A play on sympathy

De Wolffs Bestiarium tells the story of lonely library employee Anton Quist, who adds his notes to the drawings of friend Maarten de Wolff. In doing so, he creates a bestiary and he stumbles across a sinister cult of book fanatics. In turn, he is himself confronted with the choices he makes in life. Never has a book so deftly played with my sympathies. Adelmund manages to first put me firmly on Anton’s side, the loner against the world. Only to later have me question, even grow wary, of Anton and his motives. Why should I believe this man? And at the end, he firmly places me back in Anton’s camp, during his climb back to humanity. And all this in a book that deals with the nature of the love of books. Is there anything better?

A field in motion

These two books illustrate how beautiful work can come into being through mutual trust between author/illustrator and reader. By trusting, as creator, that the audience is willing to trust and pay in advance to make the work possible. And that in turn grows trust in the whole world of readers, writers and other animals.

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