Twenty Thousand Images Under the Sea

22 November 2017

John Clute writes: It was only in early 2013, almost two years after we went online, that David Langford and Roger Robinson and I decided it might be a good idea to create an SFE Picture Gallery containing cover scans for a sample of the 50,000 or more titles listed in the SFE Checklists that accompany every author who's published a book. We thought reaching a sizeable number of scans would take a while, with maybe a few thousand being about our limit. This slowness was (and remains) a direct consequence of our need to make sure that each scanned cover precisely matched the edition of the text we checklisted (in almost every case the first edition). We were able to obtain a lot of scans from others who knew more than we did, mainly Lloyd Currey, who has allowed us to take 3,776 images from his site to date, and SF Site, which has supplied 2041. But most of the remainder have been personally scanned and vetted and captioned and put up by the three of us. We've made a few errors, but in fact very few indeed. What you should see when you look at the scan of a book is what that book looked like when it first came into the world: beauty is important (many of these covers are stunning), but context is all-important.

The years passed, and we far exceeded our first guess as to how many cover illustrations (and images of pictorial boards etc) we could ever put up. Today, with a scan of the original Polish edition of Stanisław Lem's Solaris from 1961, we have hit 20,000 covers. And counting.

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