"Most Beautiful Books" collection to represent the Czech Republic at book fairs

Writer Jaroslav Rudis with the most beautiful book 'Sky under Berlin', photo: CTK

The Cultural Ministry and the Museum of Czech Writing have just presented awards for the "Most Beautiful Books" of 2003. This "beauty contest" has a tradition of almost forty years. The committee evaluates the visual quality and the quality of graphics and printing of recently published books. The prize therefore does not go to authors but to publishers.

Writer Jaroslav Rudis with the most beautiful book 'Sky under Berlin',  photo: CTK
Prizes are traditionally given out in seven categories, ranging from scientific literature to catalogues, and the winner in each category gets a small financial reward. The books placed first, second and third in each category are also gathered in a collection entitled the " Most Beautiful Czech Books" and will represent the Czech Republic at international as well as national book fairs throughout the year.

But what is the current standard of Czech book design? Eva Wolfova, the head of the Museum of Czech Writing, says that the committee has been pleased to see an improvement in the work of Czech printers and graphic artists. The days when books were missing pages or the binding fell apart are gone, she says. And there has been a great improvement in the quality of children's books. Eva Wolfova:

"Children's books were always the masterpiece of the Czech printing industry, and there was only one big publishing house. After the fall of communism the situation changed and many new publishers appeared on the market. Now they prefer original works of Czech literature. This year both the quality of graphics and technical quality of the books are very good. So we see a great improvement there."

But there is one area of the book market where great improvements still have to be made: Czech schoolbooks are still lagging far behind in terms of how they look.

"During the past ten years, the quality has not been impressive, and varies a lot. In some years a beautiful schoolbook appears, but other years are rather bad. So this year we put together a recommendation to the Ministry of Education to get involved in our contest and to support textbook publishers. We still have to discuss this but of course, we are not suggesting only moral support, but financial as well. "