Sunday Books is a new online shop, based in Dublin, stocking books and magazines related to visual culture. Its owner and proprietor, Paul Guinan, is a Dubliner with a background is in graphic design. Having studied Visual Communication at the Dublin Institute of Technology in 2009, Guinan has worked for design studios both here and in London since. He has always maintained a steady run of side projects, all with some connection to the printed word. He has been involved in independent publications including Set (2013–15), Franc (2015–present) and Home on the Grange (2016–present). Having been made part-time at his job over the summer he “very suddenly found [himself] with an abundance of free time, coupled with some modest savings.” It felt like the ideal time to get a long-held plan up and off the ground.
As much a collector as a seller, Guinan had been amassing these kinds of titles for years and bar the occasional find had always had difficulty sourcing them locally. “Dublin has some excellent bookshops but there was a niche section of smaller publishers and magazines I wasn’t seeing represented here,” he says.
While he has tried to avoid stocking publishers and artists that are already available here, that isn’t the defining factor of the range he sells. “I don’t want to be totally bound by [obscurity], so it’s more of a guiding principle than a steadfast rule. Online, there’s very little on the site you couldn’t find elsewhere with a bit of digging. What I do is apply a very subjective filter to the infinite sprawl of what’s out there. Each title is carefully considered and meets a certain criteria before finding its way onto the site. I don’t leave that process up to distributors or blindly select top sellers.”
“I hope anyone with an appreciation of visual culture will find something of interest on the site,” Guinan adds. “I’ve deliberately stocked a wide range of fields rather than specialise in just one and that’s reflective of my own taste and interests. So far I’ve had historians, architects, photographers, publishers, designers, stylists, students, etc., of all ages buying from me. I’m much happier with a broad mix rather than one easily categorised type of customer.”
“I tend to find publications interesting on different levels, sometime it’s the subject, other times it’s the design or production that interests me and sometimes it’s all three. For subject matter The Art of Small Films, The House of Beauty and Culture and Voguing and the House Ballroom Scene of New York, 1989–92 are all fascinating. They each delve into past eras, documenting work and cultures otherwise in danger of slipping into obscurity, celebrating and preserving them. From a design perspective ROMA publications are consistently excellent. They’ve just recently published Prints by the much-lauded Karel Martens as well as a long overdue monograph documenting the work of Experimental Jetset. Then from a production point of view The Most Beautiful Swiss Books series are technical marvels that push the boundaries of what is possible within the formal constraints of a printed book.”
In terms of a defining title or range, Guinan (hesitantly) draws a parallel with Four Corners Books, a London imprint with an impressive back-catalogue. This includes a selection of beautifully realised classics – Four Corners Familiars. “It’s difficult to pinpoint it to a single title but I would say I come very close to a shared ethos with Four Corners Books. They publish wide-ranging subject matter, from the visual language of left-wing political groups through artists’ interpretations of literary classics. Everything they produce is beautifully designed by John Morgan Studio and produced to exacting standards: the type of books you’ll cherish for life.”
Sunday Books own selection and presentation implies a relaxed and thoughtful outlook that reflects Guinan’s own demeanour. “The name grew out of the identity, which I wanted to be calm, quiet and casual. All qualities I associate with how I spend Sundays. It’s the only day of the week for a lot of people to completely unwind and set aside some time for reading too.”
Guinan has an open mind about where the project will take him next. “To a certain extent launching the site was an experiment to see if there’s actually an appetite for these types of publications in Ireland. The site’s been up just over a month and seeing how well people are responding I’m really excited to grow it next year. Already I’ve got a second distributor on board which means I’ll be significantly increasing the list of titles available. I’ve also begun to source rare or out of print books, that compliment the new stock.”
”One challenge I’m still grappling with is how to accurately translate the physicality of books on the website. Certain traits like size, an unusual bind or print technique are difficult to communicate through flat, static images. I’m toying with the idea of using short video to give a better sense of the books as three dimensional objects with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies — I’d love to find a physical space for the books to start finding an audience offline too.”
Sunday Books remains a delicate balancing act, which works in spite of what feel like a series of opposing forces at play: A web-based store dedicated to the sale of objects whose physicality defines them; a small selection in an ocean of choice online. Somehow it all seems to hang together – better for these apparent contradictions.
You can browse and shop Sunday Books’ catalogue online at sundaybooks.ie, and you can see more of Paul Guinan’s design work at paulguinan.com
Words: David Wall
Photos: Brian Teeling