The panel almost failed to notice this book. Was it perhaps because of the sober, classical simplicity of Dialectique du Monstre? It’s also the only French-language book to have made it into the selection. On reflection, however, this scholarly work about the multifaceted figure Opicino or Opicinus de Canistris (1296-1353) – priest, writer and maker of anthropomorphic maps – is very well balanced and does full justice to his life and work, down to the last detail.
It begins with the subtle 40gsm wrapper, through which we can dimly see a folded map by Opicinus which is in the Apostolic Library at the Vatican. The elegant typeface was also found pleasing, as were the supporting marginal texts and the placing of the endnotes. The colours are unassuming and introverted to most attractive effect. The binding is slightly tight, though, so that some pages are a little difficult to read as they run too far into the gutter.
It was that ‘fine modesty’ that ultimately turned out to be the book’s trump card. ‘If every work of scholarship were as handsome as this we’d really be pleased,’ said someone. Regrettably the book itself fails to tell us anything about its designer and technical finer points – surely an omission in so well turned-out a volume. Sadly this is not uncommon.