Bentley – The Book
If you’ve been to a Bentley dealership lately, or to a motor show or other special event, you would have noticed this book on display—at 11 1/2 x 14 5/8″ there’s no way to miss it! And it usually sits on its own lectern-like pedestal.
If you are fortunate enough to have actually bought a Bentley, you just may have been given the book as a welcome-to-the-family present although it seems even then you’d have to know the secret handshake. At any rate, this award-winning tome (2014 International Mercury Awards) is meant to be a guided tour to all things Bentley, to introduce people to the marque’s history and brand values—and to make them lust after a Bentley. The idea is to capture the imagination, and if yours isn’t, well, then you don’t have one! In other words, this is not a learned history but a PR tool and as such it is brimming with opulent layouts, eyeball-searing graphics, and high-end everything.
This publisher has produced quite a number of marque books in this same physical format, with a seemingly similar flavor, featuring the automaker’s point of view as related to a hired hand journalist and showcasing the work of brand name photographers such as René Staud. This book is different in that Bentley Motors has culled some of the images from its historic archive, some from current marketing material, and specially commissioned some others. And while someone does wear the editor’s hat, the text is so sparse—historic tidbits, basic facts, and quotes—that there is no need for an author of record.
It would be easy to dismiss a book like this as fluff—and then be annoyed at the publisher’s audacity to charge a premium price for it. And, yes, it is easy for this type of book to get it all wrong and end up in the landfill. But the more you know about Bentley the more you realize that this book strikes the right tone. Telling the story of the values of a brand, especially one as iconic as Bentley, through only carefully selected photos and a few choice words is a bold undertaking. Readers who know about brand management will appreciate what a challenge this is. (Recall that Lincoln sales went up 25% after the Matthew McConaughey ads started running). Brand Ambassador Derek Bell, a five-time Le Mans winner, says in his Foreword something that sounds like a platitude—except that he, or whoever put these words into his mouth, made a really accurate summation of Bentley’s place in the world: “Bentley is able to combine automotive aristocracy with sublime understatement.” Verily, verily, this is a Deep Thought, and everyone associated with the cars will find it an apt expression of the intangibles they strive to give physical form to.
Bentley, unlike, say, its erstwhile stablemate Rolls-Royce, has branched out into luxury goods from home furnishings to apparel to a custom Vertu cellphone, and this too is represented in the book.
As if the book isn’t large enough there are several pages that fold out to quadruple width, almost 44″ (the above is one example). Others too, such as the map of the Le Mans circuit with its several overlays evidence really sophisticated bookmaking skills so even if none of the above means anything to you, this is one impressive book—a Bespoke book for Bespoke cars that does exactly what it sets out to do: convey to the reader that in a cost-no-object world, great finesse is achievable.
Copyright 2015, Sabu Advani (speedreaders.info).
Bentley – The Book
376 pages, 250 color & b/w illustrations, hardcover
List Price: $125
ISBN 13: 978-3-8327-9739-3