An Interview with Amaranthine Books in Croatia

We recently interviewed Marko Matijašević, founder and creative director of Amaranthine Books, a new publisher of high-quality, illustrated limited editions of classics, based in Croatia. We talked about the origin of the company, their first publication (a beautiful dual edition of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) and what’s next for them.

  

Please introduce our readers to Amaranthine Books:

  
Amaranthine Books started as an idea to create beautifully designed and illustrated special editions of the famous classics. It was officially founded in 2015, but I’ve worked on it for two years prior to that, developing the vision and the philosophy, as well as working on the first title. I knew I wanted to focus on books that are deemed classics, because I wanted to give those literary works the form that they deserve. I am a book collector myself, so this line of work was a win-win for me :) Also, my prior work experience in advertising, gave me a lot of know-how with various print forms, as well as contacts with the best illustrators and print shops in Croatia.

  
I would like to make Amaranthine Books into an international publishing company that will keep its focus on creating special editions. These special editions should not only accompany the reading experience, but enhance it with numerous details and even hidden easter eggs. More importantly, I want to focus on quality so these books can last. After all, books we love to read are a reflection of us, so when we are gone, they can speak a lot about our character and beliefs. And that is what Amaranthine Books stands for -- books that you’ll buy for yourself, but leave to those who come after you.
  
That is also why I chose the name Amaranthine -- besides the usual meaning, it also means ‘unfading; everlasting’. It also represents the pink-red colour that can be found in our logo. Logo itself has letters ‘a’ and ‘b’ placed in the shape of an almost completed infinity sign. The goal was to say “yeah, nothing really last forever... but in a world where everything passes in an instant, some things should last.”
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We were very impressed with the alternate Jekyll and Hyde editions you produced for the Robert Louis Stevenson classic. Tell us more about that process. What drew you to that story in particular?  Where did the inspiration come from to produce the two editions?
    
We made two editions because it seemed like an interesting idea to get people to choose which edition draws them more, while also leaving an option to choose both. Surprisingly, a lot of people went for both editions, even though the content is the same, but having them both next to each other makes each edition stand out even more.
  
When we started working on the Jekyll & Hyde, I knew I didn’t want to just make some hardcover edition with a few pretty illustration. The goal was to enhance the reading experience, so it was imperative to not only read and analyse the book, but also the conditions in which it was written. That is why each illustration is double-sided, showing key plot points from two opposite angles, further emphasising the duality of Jekyll and Hyde. The covers and slipcase carry the same idea.
  
Furthermore, I found out that RLS wrote it (twice!) in six days while under the influence of (medically) prescribed cocaine. This served as an inspiration for another easter egg, especially since Jekyll transformed with a chemical compound of his own making, so endpapers feature one formula over and over again -- the chemical formula of cocaine (explained in detail in the book’s afterword). Another easter egg is hidden inside the slipcase, while the third one is on one of the illustrations where Jekyll sits in front of the fireplace -- there are two paintings above the fireplace and one of them feature the portrait of the writer.
  
There are even more subtle details in the book and the goal was to make all those things work in unison to enhance the experience for the reader. When that much thought and work goes into a book, it is a special joy when we receive emails from our customers saying they found something or just to tell us how much they enjoyed it. It really helps to stay motivated and work even harder when we see other people get excited about it as much as we do :)
     
We understand that your edition of Jekyll and Hyde recently won an international award. Is that right?
   
In 2016 our partners from Cerovski Print Boutique (they’ve done all the printing work on Jekyll & Hyde and will produce Dracula for us as well) took the Hyde Edition to DScoop Conference (by Hewlett-Packard) in Tel Aviv. There it won the Inkspiration award in the Best in Publishing category. Funny enough, this was even before we started the large scale production and sale of Jekyll & Hyde, so to receive an international recognition at such an early stage showed us that we were on the right track and that we should keep moving forward.
     
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What can you reveal to our readers about the forthcoming Amaranthine Dracula?
    
Dracula is currently in development, almost all illustrations are completed (there will be 16 of them inside throughout the book, illustration major plot points) and we are currently testing the materials. This is a very important step, because the goal is to make the book sensitive to light, just like Dracula was (it is a common misconception that the sunlight kills him, but it just weakens him, as many of your readers surely know). Using the phosphorescent ink on the covers and illustrations, parts of it will soak the light and emit it in low ambient light (and darkness). The book will be made of high-quality materials and will feature numerous other details as well.
   
We have already received recognition with the concept for this title -- the UniCredit Bank holds an annual competition in Croatia where it offers partial funding for especially innovative and interesting projects, and this year, Amaranthine Books was one of the winners with Dracula.
  
Do you have any other publications planned at the moment?
   
We would like to do more titles in the near future, but our focus is currently on finishing Dracula. Our aim is to publish at least two new titles in 2019, but it is still undetermined which ones. Ideally, we will continue scaling the production so that we can publish at least six titles per year.
  
Where can our readers go to learn more about Amaranthine Books and to order copies?
  
Currently, the best way to do it is to visit our website (amaranthinebooks.com). There are numerous high-resolution photos of the books, as well as the webshop where the books can be ordered. It is important to note that we ship worldwide for free. Even better, we ship exclusively with DHL, so our books reach out customers’ bookshelves in 3-5 working days tops!
   

Images provided by Marko Matijašević

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