About this project
Project finishes as of 4.30pm on 26/4/2013 - but it isn't too late to order a book or a CD!
Thanks to our backers, we've more than made our goal, and the work on the book has started in earnest. However, in case you've found this site too late to pledge via kickstarter, you can still order the book and the CD at the kickstarter price until we release THE COMPLETE UNCLE for general sale, when the price will go up.
If you go to www.gipps.org.uk and click on 'The Complete Uncle' tab at the top, you'll find paypal buttons for the book, the CD or the both together (and my email address, if you want to pay by check or have a more complicated order).
From the end of 2013, the book should be able to be ordered from your local UK bookshop, Amazon or any other website, at a higher price. the CD will only be available from me.
If you have any questions, please go to the website above or drop me a line through kickstarter.
HEADLINE NEWS & UPDATES:
Archive visits turn up extra material - see updates 7, 8 and 9
Will Self joins the project with a short piece - see update 6!
306% funded at the halfway point! Bookshop distribution, upgraded specifications, all possible art rescanned.
For various BBC pieces - including extracts from the CD - see updates 5 & 6.
The UNCLE books, first written by J.P Martin to entertain his children and grandchildren, later illustrated by Sir Quentin Blake, were originally published in the sixties and seventies and have been largely unavailable ever since. The series is one of the lost masterpieces of children's literature, is beautifully illustrated by Quentin Blake, and deserves a new audience. I would like to reprint all six books in one high-quality volume of around 760 pages, with lots of extra material and new scans of much of the original art.
Uncle is an kind-hearted elephant who lives in an massive and labyrinthine castle, accompanied by a motley crew of companions and employees, including the Old Monkey, Goodman the cat, the One-Armed Badger and many more. Near his castle sits Badfort, home of Uncle's enemies, a disreputable group including Hateman, Jellytussle, Hitmouse and other unpleasant characters. Over the course of the books, Uncle and his followers find themselves mixed up with camels, dwarfs, treacle, bears, ghosts, Captain Walrus, a singing flower, wizards, Respectable Horses and much much more.
Although the books were intended for children, they are loved by an adult audience for their wordplay, subversive and surreal humour and wonderful drawings. They're very funny.
Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, Martin Rowson, Andy Riley, Kate Summerscale and Justin Pollard are all fans of Uncle, and they've all come together to help me bring the series back into print. Each will provide new introductions or other exclusive material to this project. Other famous fans of UNCLE include Will Self, Spike Milligan, Philip Ardagh, Richard Ingrams, Ekow Eshun and David Langford.
If you have any questions, or if you're a journalist, please contact me by using the link at the top right of this page or email me at [myfirstname.mylastname] at orionbooks.co.uk.
Although the first two titles have occasionally been reprinted, the remaining four have languished out of print for many years (the last three titles have never been reprinted at all) and now command massive sums. At the time of writing, it would cost approximately £800 to buy a complete set of the books from abe.com.
I'm proposing to produce an omnibus edition of all six novels, with very high production standards, for £30 plus postage. I think you'll agree that's a major saving on the current cost of putting together a collection of all six books in tatty ex-library editions.
I've loved the UNCLE books since I was a kid and was lucky enough to pick up a few for pennies at a local junk store. My copies are long gone, sadly, but I've always wanted to see them back on my shelves where they belong. In my eight years as a bookseller I made a few noises and tried to convince the rights holders to republish, but to no avail. Now, as an editor for a major publisher (although this project is not affiliated with them), I believe that I can make this project work. I know how to sell a book, I know how to make a book - so I'm putting my money where my mouth is.
J.P. Martin was an elderly minister when he made up the Uncle stories for his children and grandchildren after a varied life, including spells as a missionary and an army chaplain. Eventually his children put pressure on him to write down his fanciful ideas and stories, and found a publisher for them in Jonathan Cape. He died in 1966, and the last three books were published posthumously. You can find more information at his Wikipedia entry.
Sir Quentin Blake is one of the greatest illustrators and artists of the 20th century. Much loved for his playful and instantly-recognisable work, he has illustrated some of the finest works of children's literature. Best known for his collaborations with Roald Dahl, Michael Rosen, Russell Hoban and his own magnificent works, he was knighted in the 2012 New Year's Honour's List. You can find more information on his website.
I have, over the years, made contact with a few other people who love Uncle as much as I do, and I have asked some of them to provide brand-new and exclusive introductions for this project. Neil Gaiman, Justin Pollard and Garth Nix will each provide a short piece about the series, or a particular book, or the impact the stories had on them. James Currey, Martin's grandson, will pen a new piece about the history of Uncle. Martin Rowson and Andy Riley will provide a new illustration each, as well as introductions. Kate Summerscale will revisit an article she wrote for the Guardian in the late nineties, expand and bring it up to date. I have permission from Richard Ingrams to reprint an article he wrote a few years ago for a small-press magazine, although I still need confirmation from the publishers.
I will also produce a limited numbered signed edition, which I hope will be signed by everyone involved. Confirmed at the moment are Justin Pollard, Andy Riley and Martin Rowson. I hope to get the rest as well, although both Quentin Blake and Neil Gaiman have said that they're probably too busy to do it. I will keep trying, though. Please don't buy this level without being aware that I can't 100% promise any names until I've actually seen them put pen to paper. I'll keep pledgers up to date.
I want these books to be as high quality and beautifully designed as I can make them. The book will be:
-In Royal format - standard hardback size in the UK - which means I can fit more on each page than the original hardbacks contained
-Printed on 100gsm acid-free silk paper (very high quality, nice feel, and it won't go brown with age)
-Either square bound with printed board covers or bound in cloth with foil stamping (I haven't decided yet)
-Bound with sewn sections (not glued, so it won't fall apart)
-Finished with head and tail bands and ribbon bookmarks (because these look nice and are useful)
Basically, it will look lovely. The current predicted page count is around 760 or so. All of the text will be reset and reflown from the original first editions, and professionally typeset and proofread. I plan to make these books as nice as I possibly can, so if we exceed the target then I'll increase the specifications - but believe me, these are already going to be beautiful books.
Unfortunately, this level of quality doesn't come cheap, and it doesn't come light, which is why the postage costs are so high, especially internationally.
Quentin Blake's archive contains approximately 170 pieces of original Uncle art, which is about two-thirds of the total. He and his archivist have no idea where the rest has gone - if you know where a piece is, please let me know! The art is old and not all in great condition, but where possible we will rescan, touch-up and present in the best possible format. For any missing art, or for pieces where the original is too decayed to use, I will scan at high resolution from first-printing books.
Thanks to the kindness of the Martin estate, Quentin Blake and Tony Bannister, I am able to offer some extra non-book items.
Before his death, J.P. Martin's family recorded him reading various bits of Uncle, which often differ widely from the final printed versions. Although the quality is a little off in places - these are 50 year old home recordings! - there is too much material for one CD. You can add a 2-CD set to any pledge by adding £12 to your total (£14 if not based in the UK).
Apart from the introductions, I also intend to include more supplementary material. This isn't yet all confirmed, but will hopefully include scans of original reviews, copies or typescripts of various articles written about Uncle, material from the Jonathan Cape archive, reproductions (B&W) of the original covers and endpapers, transcriptions of original interviews and a few secrets! I want this to be an exhaustive and definitive edition, so if you have anything interesting relating to Uncle, please get in touch.
You can find more information about the Uncle books at the following links:
The Money and Small Print
Speaking of the target, although it may seem like a lot of money, at that level I still, personally, lose a fairly serious sum. Once I'm breaking even on the project - and I should point out that I'm paying myself nothing - I'll look into what to do with any excess, work out how I can make the book better, and keep all backers updated. I pledge to be completely open about all of my costs on this project.
I'm sure people will ask, but my licence to create these books does not include eBook rights. So there won't be any eBooks from me. I only have a licence to create an omnibus hardback. I will print as many copies as are ordered through Kickstarter, plus a few in case of mishap or for retailers such as Quentin Blake's official art gallery. If we smash our target, I will be able to expand this into a full print run for normal retail channels, but this isn't my initial goal. If the other UNCLE books are any indication, I expect the resale price of THE COMPLETE UNCLE on ebay to start rising quite quickly! Having said that, if we're successful, I hope it will convince mainstream publishers that there is a market for these books.
I have obtained the licence to these books from Random House UK and the New York Review of Books, who are the copyright holders, and have already paid them an advance on future sales (which I will lose if this project doesn't make its goal). I will be paying them a royalty on each copy sold. However, if we break even, I will make sure that some of the excess money goes to the creators of this magnificent work.
I think that covers it - the only other thing to say is please pledge, and please share this appeal with your friends, colleagues, casual acquaintances - anyone who would like a series of wonderful, surreal stories, full of humour and ingenuity, illustrated by one of the greatest artists of the last fifty years. Any questions, please feel free to ask.
Risks and challenges
The major risks have already been overcome - I have permission from the copyright holders, I have promises from my introduction writers, I have the blessing of Quentin Blake and the Martin estate.
I have a confirmed printing quote from a printer I trust to do good work. I have already scanned copies of the books, and done much of the necessary work for preparing them for publication, and I have an excellent type-setter and proofreader standing by.
The art may be a problem, as I don't yet know how much of the material in the Quentin Blake archive is useable. But this will be more easily overcome if we smash the target!
However, putting this together is not going to be cheap. The challenge comes in making enough money to ensure that I don't go broke. I think I've pitched this at the right level, and have enough money in savings to cover any likely shortfall, as long as we reach our target.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Yes, you can choose any name you like (as long as it's suitable for a children's book!). When the kickstarter is over I'll send out a survey asking you for all of your details, including what names to print.
For all levels, you can add a CD for £12 (UK) or £14 (international). Go to 'manage your pledge' on the top right of the page, and add £12 to your total, but leave the 'pledge selected' as it was - so if you want a book and a CD, choose the £37 level but pledge £49. Or add £24/£28 for two CDs and so on... At the end of the pledge you will receive a survey asking you to confirm what you want to spend your extra money on.
Indeed you can! Just add £30 to your pledge for each extra book you want, but keep your reward selection at £30. When I send out my survey, you'll be able to allocate the extra money and let me know that you want an extra book.
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