Review by Willard Manus

Gita Wolf and Sirish Rao (the team responsible for the splendidly illustrated folktale The Very Hungry Lion, School & Library Binding, 1996) have teamed up with illustrator Indrapramit Royin on a retelling of Sophocles' ANTIGONE. The drama, which won first prize in a 5th century B.C. Athenian drama festival, has been turned into a fetching handmade book, one whose text and design match the enduring quality of Sophocles' artistry.

With the backing of the Getty Museum's department of publications, the book was put together by AMM Screens, a division of Tara Publishing in India. Famed for its creativity and willingness to take on difficult production challenges, AMM put ten of its best bookmakers to work on ANTIGONE, for a period of nearly six months.
Christopher Hudson, publisher of Getty Publications, described the work that went into this 28-page volume (which can boast of eight 2-color silk-screened illustrations inspired by classic Greek pottery). "The paper was made from scratch, using cotton rags and assorted waste papers," he said. "Approximately two tons of paper were specially ordered and used for the project. After preparing silk screens and shade-mixing the printing inks by hand, the craftsmen then spread or 'pulled' the ink over the screens one at a time. In the end, the project took about a quarter a million pulls to create. Once each screen was lifted, every newly printed page was dried over palettes. When finally dry, the loose leaves were hand-stitched together, edges trimmed to final size, and stuck to the cover using a water-based resin adhesive. Slipcases were then folded by hand for use in protecting the delicate final product."

Wolf and Rao's narrative focuses on Teiresias the blind prophet, who prophesies that Antigone's stubborn determination to honor her fallen brother Polynices will lead to a disastrous showdown with her uncle, King Creon. It's man vs. power, a theme that made--and still makes--for strong drama. Teiresias tries to head the conflict off, but fails. The result is a tragedy of vaulting and unforgettable power.

The hardbound edition costs $18.95 and is available at bookstores or through Getty Publications (800-223-3431).