Sunday 19 November 2017

First Editions Re-covered: Sotheby's, London

Some animals are more equal than others, Oil-painted resin sculpture with a re-jacketed first edition copy of Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945). 2017, approx. 40cm high.

Detail: piggy bank
Detail: Animal Farm dust-cover, acyrlic, pencil and ink on paper

First Editions Re-covered is a collection of unique first editions with original dust-jackets created by leading artists and designers. Artists chose a book they felt a strong connection to and then created a new jacket or artwork in response to it. The end result is 33 wonderful lots which will be auctioned to benefit House of Illustration.

House of Illustration is the world’s only public gallery solely dedicated to illustration and graphic arts. It is the only UK gallery commissioning new illustration work for public display and runs the only residency for illustrators and graphic artists. House of Illustration is a registered charity receiving no public funding and rely on fundraising to raise over 40% of our income each year. 

The books and their beautiful new covers will be on public display at Sotheby’s in London from Friday 8 December until the auction on Monday 11 December. They will be displayed on Sotheby’s website ( and our website ( from 10 November, and the printed auction catalogue will be available soon afterwards.

To see the works:

Some animals are more equal than others

My own choice was Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945), a book that has had an immense influence on my imagination as a writer and illustrator.  To refresh, it tells the story of Manor farm, where the animals revolt and take over, only to come undone by their own internal politics. One pig in particular, the cunning Napoleon, proves wonderfully adept and dividing the group, fermenting fear, blaming foreigners and revising historical facts. Sound familiar?

When House of Illustration located a rare first edition and sent to to me, I was amazed at how small and unassuming it was, a tiny book bound in green cloth. Small enough, I thought, to not only fit inside a dust-jacket, but a sculptural shrine of some sort. The idea of a piggy-bank for a valuable book came almost immediately, and then raised the question: what makes a book – essentially worthless printed paper – so valuable? Of course, it's the quiet truth it radiates, the very ability to undermine questions of value. Here is the statement written on the inner jacket about why this book is important to me (transcript below):

I first came across Animal Farm by accident: our mother read it to my brother and I, then about 7 and 8(!), thinking it was just another children’s book. She wanted to stop, but we begged her to continue, all the way to the bleak and strange ending. What was it about? As kids, the answer was clear: schoolyard politics in suburban West Australian. Animal Farm remains the book with the deepest subconscious influence on my own work as a storyteller, the absurd fantasy that tells us basic truths about human nature, regardless of time, place or political colour.

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