Playfully illustrated by Amy Jean Porter, Fungipedia is an accessible, and sometimes irreverent, tour of mycology: a mini encyclopedia of mushrooms, for all intents and purposes. Designer Chris Ferrante collaborated with Porter on critical design elements, like featuring a color illustration of a fly agaric—among the most recognizable mushroom species—on the cover, and opting for a bright purple, foil-stamped cloth case, which lends the book a certain boldness and complements Porter’s whimsical illustrations. Contrasted with the red of the mushroom’s cap and the book’s subtitle, purple may be an unconventional choice, yet is entirely fitting for a book chronicling the exotic life of mushrooms. The title typeface, Windsor, with its bulbous serifs, subtly evokes the book’s subject, while endowing it with a nostalgic quality: think of the ads and magazines of the late 1960s through the 1970s, especially those with a countercultural vibe, like the Whole Earth Catalog.
These distinguishing surface features are seamlessly woven into the interior of the book. Upon opening it, you notice endpapers printed with Porter’s drawings of mushroom spores. The decorative pattern is not unlike that found in much older books from the time of mechanized bookbinding in the 1830s, though here it is richly updated. The content of the book, with such wide-ranging entries as “bioluminescence” and “Beatrix Potter,” is alphabetized, and this lends itself to another little flourish: a drop-cap, also in Windsor, adorns every first word in a letter group. Finally, there are Porter’s illustrations and their hand-lettered captions, by turns droll and scientific, often documenting a species’ Latin binomial.
This compendium is indeed compendious; but for a book with a 4 ½″ × 6 ¾″ trim size, it manages to also be commodious, filled not just with factual information about mushrooms and the stories behind them, but also replete with design choices and aesthetic considerations. Here is, in short, a beautifully packaged book, for which there must be a Latin name somewhere.