When a reader picks up a book, the essence of the text has been translated into the visual space of the cover. Using Umberto Eco’s bestseller The Name of the Rose as a case study, this is the first study of book cover design as a form of intersemiotic translation based on the purposeful selection of visual signs to represent verbal signs. As an act of translation, the cover of a book ought to be an ‘equivalent representation’ of the text. But in the absence of any established interpretive criteria, how can ...
When a reader picks up a book, the essence of the text has been translated into the visual space of the cover. Using Umberto Eco’s bestseller The Name of the Rose as a case study, this is the first study of book cover design as a form of intersemiotic translation based on the purposeful selection of visual signs to represent verbal signs. As an act of translation, the cover of a book ought to be an ‘equivalent representation’ of the text. But in the absence of any established interpretive criteria, how can equivalence between the visual and the verbal be determined and interpreted? Re-Covered Rose tackles this question in an original and creative way, laying the foundation for a new research trend in Translation Studies.
Marco Sonzogni is Senior Lecturer in Italian, School of Languages and Cultures, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. A widely published academic and an award-winning editor, poet and literary translator, he is the Director of the New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation/Te Tumu Whakawhiti Tuhinga.
As if to demonstrate the universal appeal of the book chosen for the international book cover contest behind the case study of Sonzogni’s book – Umberto Eco’s bestseller The Name of the Rose (1980) – Venus febriculosa received over 250 entries from 50 countries representing every continent, many of which were of the highest quality. Among the expected images figuring into the covers in many clever permutations were roses, labyrinths, monks, manuscripts, stairwells, fingerprints, bloodstains, crucifixes, towers. There were also a handful of text-only covers some of which managed to be as compelling as the visual covers. Lastly, a few covers eschewed the above catalogue with a playful wink and instead opted for non sequiturs, non-referential or anachronistic. The winning cover was designed by Razvan Mitoiu (Romania). Communicating an almost overpowering dark primitivism, it succeeds because it suggests so many things: ritual, mystery, violence. The dark dripping fluid (blood, poison, ink, wax?) is a wonderful Rorschach image: is it an occult, pagan, or alchemical symbol? The beginning letters of an interrupted word? A crucifix? Or a purely accidental spill with no meaning whatsoever? The torn page; the faded text with the English words January and February clearly visible and repeated; the text that appears to be handwritten but on closer inspection is not… All of these little mysteries compound the sense of general unease and highlight the complexities underpinning the relationship between the verbal and the visual.
Re-Covered Rose is a brilliant study on book covers anchored in a felicitous marriage between innovative translation theory and creative practice. Until recently research on book covers has focused primarily on the commercial artistic outcome of the interactions between cover and reader without considering the continuity of meaning between a book’s cover and its text. Forging new ground, Sonzogni addresses the complex act of negotiation from verbal to visual signs as an act of intersemiotic translation. He tests his set of criteria for evaluating book covers through a unique case study that considers the fifty finalists in the international cover contest of Umberto Eco’s celebrated The Name of the Rose. Foregrounding the rich diversity stimulated by Eco’s work, Sonzogni’s book treads new theoretical ground while being a visual feast of powerful images – a book to be both pored over and displayed.
Marco Sonzogni’s beautiful and original book, based on a competition to design a cover for Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, illustrates the various ways a book cover can relate to its text. This relation, seen as a type of translation, is subjected to Sonzogni’s careful scrutiny in a fascinating study that provides a wealth of thought-provoking material for anyone interested in translation, reading, reception, or the novel.
Federico M. Federici
Marco Sonzogni’s Re-Covered Rose: A Case Study in Book Cover Design as Intersemiotic Translation proposes an intriguing new method to discuss book covers as intersemiotic objects with a different approach from those used in concurrent Paratranslation discourses. With a rigorous approach, the book analyses the selection of visual signs which represent verbal signs and discusses the notion of equivalence between the two sign systems; indeed an approach that could lead to new trends in Translation Studies, informing research on advertising translation and multimodal translation.
What can you tell about a book from its cover? This question that readers encounter every day has deeply important theoretical and aesthetic implications, as Marco Sonzogni’s fascinating book shows. Sonzogni offers an inventive, provocative, and highly entertaining exploration of the relation between texts and their visual representation. The very difference between a book and its cover makes any visual rendering an act of translation, as he points out, and no translation can claim perfect fidelity to the original. Sonzogni shows that the differences between such translations can be productive or problematic – that is, illuminating conflicts over how to interpret a text or mistranslations that may give a reader a false impression of what’s inside. This is an original, insightful study that should be of interest to anyone concerned with book history and production, the relation between literature and the visual arts, and the theory of signs and interpretation.
In this highly original and compelling study Marco Sonzogni examines book covers as a form of translation from the verbal to the visual and points to the importance of this form of intersemiotic translation for our understanding of the nature of the book. Re-Covered Rose is an engaging and illuminating exploration of a hugely neglected area of response to the written word in contemporary culture. The study represents an exciting new departure in translation studies and will be of great interest to anyone who cares about the fate of reading in our digital age.
This truly original work on book cover design as intersemiotic translation is a brilliant new approach to translation studies.