"I was just sitting with my dog in the sun daydreaming and the book came along, the rabbit fur cover, the feeling of the thing, its weight," Iranian-New Zealander artist Nabil Sabio Azadi tells Co.Design of For You the Traveller, the world’s furriest travel book, available this week for the first time in the U.S. It will be stocked by Barneys in an area curated by Jay-Z.
Look beyond the pelt, and the volume, hand-bound with a coptic stitch on its wooden spine, is also among the world's rarest, with only 200 limited-edition copies printed. Maybe even more notable for the travel genre, there’s not a single tourist trap or overpriced "authentic" restaurant to be found in its recycled-paper pages. Instead, it’s a "directory of kind people in five continents" who will serve as ports of call for travelers passing through their region: metalworkers, farmers, artists, writers, teachers, designers, and shipwrights.
These internationally nice people's names, personal stories, and phone numbers are listed. Hand-drawn Tolkien-esque maps lead you to their homes, from Tehran to Paris to Lemnos. In the age of Couchsurfing and Airbnb, staying with strangers abroad is the new norm. "If you share yourself with them, they will share their shelter, philosophy, and land with you," writes 22-year-old Azadi.
Plus, the book’s recycled rabbit fur cover means it can be repurposed as a stuffed animal to cuddle with in foreign lands. Depending on your tastes, it may bring to mind the adorable fuzzy-jacketed picturebooks The Little Fur Family or Pat the Bunny, or Le Corbusier’s creepy copy of Don Quixote, which he had bound in the fur of his dead dog, Pinceau.
Rabbits’ feet are notoriously magical—so might this shaggy volume possess a bit of those powers? Sure enough, For You the Traveller is doing some strange things to its readers’ heads. "There's one Australian lad who has made it his objective to meet everyone in the book. So far he's got five people down," says Azadi. "Another French couple bought the book and decided to both quit their jobs in politics. Now they're traveling with the book as well."
The limited print run means participating spirit guides won’t be overwhelmed with such visitors. Nor was the book's young creator overwhelmed by its making, or at least not for long. "The design process itself is very rapid and intuitive for me," Azadi says. "Typically I just see things fully formed, and then I would say to you that I am in fact just the general contractor and I deal with the manufacturing. I made the book very quickly, almost in a hypomanic state, over two months.
"The basic message of For You the Traveller is "You are not alone," says Azadi. Profits will fund the Swiss-based organization Nouvelle Planete’s efforts in Madagascar, where they are building footbridges to help people who live in isolated villages.