Book by Oliver Sacks. Art by Martin O’Neill.
It’s rare to see a popular science book get the artistic cover treatment, but the Folio Society could be on to a great thing with this beautiful illustrated edition of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks.
Sacks’ famous 1985 collection of essays centres on people whose brains, one way or another, have turned on them. To his utmost credit, artist Martin O’Neill resisted the temptation to draw a hat, instead taking the subject matter 100% seriously. This cover – and each illustration inside – gives us a surreal and personal glimpse into the mind of each patient.
Images from Cut It Out Studio.
As with Sacks’ writing, O’Neill’s collages are simultaneously sympathetic and celebratory, showing how strange and frightening the world can be through these patients’ eyes, while also marvelling at the mind’s capacity to adapt – however disturbingly – outside its usual parameters. Knowing each collage represents a real person’s sensory experience makes this all the more powerful.
Here are some more of Martin O’Neill’s handmade collages from The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. You can check out the full collection, alongside more of his wonderful work, on his website Cut It Out.
The Twins: Based on John and Michael, twins whose savant syndrome gave them the extraordinary ability to calculate astronomically large prime numbers.
A Dog Beneath the Skin: Interpreting Sacks’ account of a 22-year-old man who, after experimenting with amphetamines, spent three weeks with the extra-sensory smell perception of a dog.
The Lost Mariner: O’Neill’s interpretation of Jimmie, the man whose memory stopped at 1945.
Check out more amazing work from Martin O’Neill.
This slipcased hardcover release is currently limited to 5000 editions, and can be ordered online via the Folio Society website.
Here’s hoping this inspires more popular popular science releases in this deluxe artistic format. I’d kill for a similarly creative take on Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. How about you?