The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

Content

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Text

Originally published in nine volumes, beginning in 1759, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is a first-person account of the life of its fictional, eponymous hero. Considered a forerunner of many contemporary narrative styles, Laurence Sterne’s original text exploited the printing techniques of his time,1 and included a rich visual element integral to its meaning.2 However, over time, and after many successive editions, the book had lost much of its original visual spirit and humour. Publisher Visual Editions approached us to bring the story back to life and design a new edition—their inaugural publication.

Our ambition was to strike a balance between adding new visual elements and staying faithful to the original spirit of the novel. Through reading and research, we designed a new edition which honours Sterne’s playful but rigorous approach both to design and production. Many of the visual interventions within the original editions have been reinterpreted for contemporary print production: the black page following the death of Yorick now appears as an overprinting of all the text up until that point, and the marbled ‘emblem of my work’ takes the form of a moire-patterned photographic close-up which varies from copy to copy. Our design for this new edition of Shandy was nominated for Designs of the Year 2011 by Simon Esterson and Will Hudson.


  1. Within the books, Shandy was obsessed with the production of his volumes, and narrates the production of them alongside the other stories. If Sterne (or indeed Shandy himself) were considering the print production now, we reasoned that he would not be nostalgic but he would embrace the current printing techniques to communicate the same concepts. 

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