A book that glows in the dark. Can google do that?

Radioactive by Lauren Redniss was a finalist for the 2011 National Book Award for Nonfiction. Although it did not win, it remains the first graphic book to be considered for that award (American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang was nominated in Young People’s Literature and Art Spiegelman’s Maus won a Special Letters Pulitzer Prize).

Certainly, it’s the first one that glows. Radioactive’s cover is printed with phosphorescent ink so that it glows in the dark.

In an interview with Megan Gilbert, Redniss spoke about the design and printing of the physical volume, “Many of book’s images are made using a technique called cyanotype printing. Cyanotype is a 19th-century, camera-less, photographic process in which chemically saturated paper turns blue when exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun.”


“…For Radioactive, I designed everything: front cover, back cover, spine, endpages, all the pages in between. It was important to me that the design of Radioactive be as carefully considered as the written narrative and the artwork—to echo the story’s themes and to layer the book with meaning. …I designed a typeface based on the frontispieces of old scientific manuscripts in the New York Public Library. I hand-drew every letter and number, the punctuation, the symbols and accents. I wanted the typeface to have a stately but imperfect quality. I named the font Euspia LR, after Eusapia Palladino, an Italian Spiritualist medium whose séances the Curies attended.”


Lauren Redniss, Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love & Fallout (New York: !t Books, 2010). Dixon Books (Dixon) in process.

In conjunction with the book, Redniss created a website where, among other things, you can create your own cyanotype: http://exhibitions.nypl.org/radioactive/