Science Fiction/Fantasy Art Book Review

Terry Pratchett Discworld Imaginarium

(2017) , Gollancz, £35 / Can$60 / US$50, hrdbk, 271pp, ISBN 978-1-473-22337-0


This is a large format book printed on gloss art paper, containing the artwork Paul Kidby created for Terry's Discworldbooks and other Discworld ventures.

I have to start with a confession. I have been known to take the odd comic book, say Ronan Dirge’s Lenore or a graphic novel, say DC’s mighty Elseworld story Kingdom Come or an album sleeve, say Jim Steinman’s Bad for Good as illustrated by Rich Corben, or one of the months from a Terry Pratchett Discworld calendar, usually featuring Death playing a guitar, and take them along to my local t-shirt shop and have a t-shirt made out of the illustration. Suffice to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Imaginariumcould provide a whole wardrobe and several chest of drawers filled with t-shirts.

This is a beautiful book, starting with the cover illustration of “The Imaginarium of Professor Pratchett”, depicting a smiling Terry Pratchett wearing a top hat, bursting at the top as the Wee Free Men and The Death of Rats and other things emerge, probably not from the hat itself, but the mind of the wearer. Before we even get to the introduction we are treated to an aerial shot of the Discworld gliding through space on the back of Great Atuin and after the introduction we have the sketches for the Discworld Massif painting before the two-page, full colour illustration of every major Discworld character together in one place, and what a bunch they are.

Kidby’s illustrations come in different forms, from black and white pencil drawings right through to oil paintings and they are divided into nine different sections, staring with The Chalk and an extract from The Wee Free Men followed by some notes by Kidby. Since this is The Chalk we are in Tiffany Aching territory along with the Wee Free Men along and Granny Weatherwax and other characters found in the Chalk so we get pictures of various book covers and covers that didn’t make the final cut.

Section two is devoted to Lancre and its starts with a quite imposing view of Lancre and the Ramtop Mountains before we get a quote from Wyrd Sisters and a pencil drawing of Granny Weatherwax’s cat, Greebo.

Ankh Morpork is next, and according to Kidby, the Somerset town of Frome inspired many of his views of the city. This section includes some rather unsettling illustrations of Doctor Whiteface and the Fools’ Guild. And a gathering of “The Band With Rocks In” which owes a lot to a certain Beatles cover.- expect to find many famous characters both alive and undead standing side by side.

Pseudopolis Yard is the home of the Ankh Morpork City Watch so this is where we find illustrations of Captain Sam Vines, Captain Carrot, Sergeant Fred Colon, Corporal Angua, Sergeant Detritus, Nobby Nobbs and associated book covers some of which reference old masters.

Unseen University contains illustrations of Archchancellor Cutangle, the Librarian (arguably the illustrations titled “Quiet Please” is the best in the book) and many other familiar faces -human or otherwise - and the illustration for Moving Pictures apes (ouch) King Kong quite nicely.

Uberwald is the place where the dark creatures roam, usually at night or under a full moon there are vampires, werewolves, hunchback assistants, dwarves, trolls. There are also some illustrations from one of my favourite Pratchett books – The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents worth the price of admission for an audacious plot twist half way through.

Death's Domain features Death, sometimes wearing sunglasses, sometimes not, sometimes playing the guitar or riding a motorbike, or just holding a kitten. Death’s horse Binky also features as well as the Death of Rats, Mort, Susan, Albert and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Terra Incognita is the place where all images go that couldn’t find a home elsewhere featuring some well known characters in unlikely situations or epic paintings of the Discworld itself

Ex Atelieris is the last section devoted to Terry Pratchett featuring pencil drawings, paintings and sculptures of the great man himself, including one of him playing chess with Death in a nod to Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal.

To misquote the late, great Frank Zappa, this book is “pretty essential”, and no Discworld fan’s collection would be complete without it.

Ian Hunter

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