Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (16 Oct 2006)
Illustrator: Charles Vess
This book is a real pleasure. The hardback is more than your standard hardback - the binding is a knubbly tactile joy that needs no slipcover, and it comes complete with a traditional bookmark ribbon. The only other books we have that look and feel this good are ones from the Folio Society, but, given Clarke's evocation of the early 19th Century, it is deeply appropriate that such a throwback in production aesthetics should be here applied.
And onto the contents.
Here are 8 stories, which flesh out the world seen in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. All but one of these are not new stories - they have been published previously, the earliest a decade ago - but they do delightfully expand on what was seen in that novel. Since Strange and Norrell took so long to write, many of these could be considered sketches for that work. Or perhaps not sketches, for the central figures of the novel are seen but rarely here. There is, on occasion, a certain sense of deja vu. Certain of the themes (faery illusion, for example) are worked out at greater length in the novel. But these are minor flaws, and forgiveable in a collection of items originally meant to be stand-alone.
In a word: gorgeous.