There’s so much about 26 Treasures – the book that is different. I’ll be very proud of it when it appears. It still needs a few more people to sign up for it www.unbound.co.uk/books/26-treasures in the next week or so. But everyone’s now confident it will happen.
The book comes out of four exhibitions at the V&A, National Library of Wales, Ulster Museum and National Museum of Scotland. Originally Rob Self Pierson and I went to the V&A to propose the idea: 26 writers from www.26.org.uk would write exactly 62 words (26 in reflection) about objects from the V&A. The V&A loved the idea, the curators of the British Galleries selected 26 treasures, we randomly paired them with writers from 26, and the words and objects came together for exhibition as part of the London Design Festival 2010.
Last year we extended the idea to the three other national archives representing Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The same basic format applied, with interesting variations that reflected the identity of each of the countries. For example, in Wales the writing became completely bilingual: 62 words in English and Welsh for each object.
In ‘curating’ these four projects, 26 had gathered an extraordinary cast list of writers from its own ranks and contacts. Among the famous writers involved are Andrew Motion, Maura Dooley, Gillian Clarke, Michael Longley, Paul Muldoon, Alexander McCall Smith. More than 100 different writers have been involved. And we had invented a new literary form: the sestude. We define it as a study in exactly 62 words.
We felt the project deserved its own book. But how to do it? I knew about a new publishing venture called Unbound, founded by three people including my good friend John Mitchinson. Unbound is a response, by people of great experience in the book world, to the current state of publishing where it’s become so difficult to get unusual books published. Unbound operates on crowd-sourcing principles – through its website it invites interested readers to subscribe to the book. When the funding reaches its full level the book gets printed and published with greater care and panache than authors now expect from conventional publishers. John wanted to publish 26 Treasures through Unbound. 26 wanted to support Unbound too as a new way of publishing.
As I write, the book is nearly 80% funded. The number of supporters needed is now within reach – fewer people than read this blog, for example. Thank you to all who have already subscribed. And thank you to those who will help us hit our funding target in the next two weeks. Subscribers get their names printed in the back of the book’s first edition. So we know the friends of 26 Treasures by name, and I’d like to thank you all for your support. To add your name to the list, and receive a book in June, go to www.unbound.co.uk/books/26-treasures