Friday, December 15, 2006


Over the past year or so I have become aware of and greatly impressed by a number of books all published under the Lantern imprint which proves to be an imprint of Penguin Books Australia.

Some of these impressive titles include:

My French Life by Vicki Archer

Italian Joy by Carla Coulson
Matt Moran by Matthew Moran
Daily Italian by Tobie Puttock

I traced down the Lantern publisher, Julie Gibbs, on her return from Thailand where she had been working on a forthcoming title on Thai Street Food, and asked her what her motivation was in setting up the Lantern imprint:

I was invited to set up the imprint by Gabrielle Coyne and Robert
Sessions and it was launched in June 2004. They thought it time for a
separate identity for the local illustrated lifestyle publishing I had
been doing under the Viking imprint. This segment of the market has
grown exponentially in the last ten years and has become increasingly
competitive. We saw Lantern as a way of marking these books in the trade
and drawing attention to their production values and subject matter,
particularly in the cookery area.

It has been very well received and I am humbled and delighted by the way
Lantern books have been embraced by booksellers, journalists and the
public in just two and a half years.

When did you publish the first book under the new imprint and what was

The first book was the second edition of Stephanie Alexander's The
Cook's Companion. It is a flagship title and to go out first with this
important book felt right. We had sold over 300,000 copies of the first
edition (original print run: 12,000 copies). It was hard to imagine how
we could reinvent it but once we got to work it was great fun. Stephanie
increased the book's recipes by a third and Matthew Johnson was
commissioned to come up with an abstract cover design.

What is your publishing philosophy and how do you decide whether or not
a book is suitable for the list?

The closest thing to a 'philosophy' is that these are the books I want
to read and be inspired by: books to celebrate life, ideas and the home
arts. I want them to be as wonderful to behold as they are to read.

How many titles a year do you envisage publishing?

About 12 new titles and six new paperback editions of previous

I am greatly taken by "My French Life" and the very high production
values you have brought to it. Did you suggest this book or did the author come
to you with the idea?

Carla Coulson came to me with the idea of collaborating with her friend
Vicki Archer about Vicki's amazing house in the South of France. They
are both perfectionists and the three of us knew at the outset what kind
of book we wanted it to be although the padded 'quilted' cover was a

It is in some ways a similar story to that told by Carla Coulson in
"Italian Joy". Do you see this 'ex-pat Aussie doing well overseas' as a new

It already was an established genre in paperback with books like Sarah
Turnbull's Almost French. Being passionate about illustrated books, I
wondered if we could take these narratives of ex pat French and Italain
life and illustrate them with inspiring pictures.

Italian Joy happened when Carla Coulson wheeled a suitcase of
photographs into my office in January 2004. Another author had told her
to show her pictures to me in case we wanted to use them for a cover or
something. I was overwhelmed by their beauty and by the way Carla had
managed to capture not only the atmosphere and intrinsic beauty of Italy
but the spirit of the people as well. When asked how she came to take
them she told me the whole story of her 'early mid-life crisis' and how
she ran away from Sydney to Italy. I suggested we do a book about her
story. She said she couldn't write so I told her to go away and make
some rough notes so that we could see how we might brief a ghost writer.
She came back in a fortnight with a wonderfully honest and vivid text
and we got to work. Carla is a true artist and I really admire the way
she has now moved to Paris (with her Italian boyfriend) and begun her
photography career all over again. Needless to say we have another book
on the way (to be published late 2008).

Anything else you would like to say?

I am privileged to be able publish right across the Penguin list eg.
literary books with Rob Drewe, self-help books with Kaz Cooke, astrology
with Jessica Adams, commercial women's fiction with Maggie Alderson as
well as the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet. Lantern is a separate and very
rewarding endeavour. Penguin Australia has been incredibly supportive in
letting me take quite big risks and allowing me to assemble a great team
to make these illustrated projects happen. The work of the photographers
is also key and I want to pay tribute especially to Simon Griffiths and
Earl Carter for being such muses as well as designers such as Sandy

I wish Julie and her wonderful Lantern imprint every success. I own the first two titles on my list of four above and if I'm not given the other two for Christmas (ever hopeful) then I'll be into my bookstore to buy them in the New Year.
Do search these books out at your favourite bookstore, I'm sure you'll agree with my enthusiasm for them.

Next week I'll devote some space to talking at greater length about My French Life because it is the most beautiful book I've seen during 2006. Glorious production, gorgeously illustrated and so very well written.Simply magnificent.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have a treat in store for you when you get round to reading MY FRENCH LIFE. I bought it for my girlfriend for Xmas and its a bloody cracker.