Friday, May 10, 2013

Cover art

As you may have noticed, many of our recent releases have included the original dust jacket art from the British first editions.  Particularly in the 1950s, British dust jackets were often strikingly attractive, and where the original jacket is worth reusing for aesthetic or historical reasons, we've been trying to do so.  You'll also notice on the first page of each volume a short paragraph about the artist or designer.  What we wonder is why more publishers don't reuse the vintage art -- for example, this was the original jacket art for John Braine's Room at the Top (1957), by John Minton (1917-1957), a troubled gay artist who killed himself less than two months before the book was published:


We think this is a beautiful image and well worth using for our new edition.  The alternative, I suppose would be something along the lines of the British paperback edition:



Or, take the fun original jacket art for John Wain's picaresque comedy Hurry on Down (1953):



There's nothing really wrong with the cover of the most recent Penguin reissue, but it's not really all that distinctive and certainly doesn't do much to suggest the mood of the book:


One thing that's really striking about some of these very old covers is how remarkably modern they still look after 60 years.  We were really excited to discover the art of Val Biro and even more excited to discover that, born in 1921, he's still alive, and still gets up every day at age 92 to paint.  During the 1950s and 60s, Biro did as many as 3000 British book jackets, including ones by some of the big best-sellers of the time, like J. B. Priestley, Nevil Shute, and C. S. Forester.  Here are the two that he has agreed to let us reuse:






A little bit later than these, but no less notable, is artist Tom Adams (b. 1926), who has very graciously allowed us to reuse his very impressive art for two major novels, Barry England's Booker-shortlisted Figures in a Landscape (1968) and David Storey's Booker winner Saville (1976).  Adams is most famous perhaps for his Agatha Christie paperback covers, but his art adorns the jackets of some of the major British novels of the 1970s, including John Fowles's The Collector and The Magus, Patrick White's The Vivisector, and Storey's Saville.  See his gallery here: http://www.tomadamsuncovered.co.uk/gallery.html. The ominous black helicopter in the England novel becomes an insectlike nightmare in Adams's classic art:


This is the gorgeous, dreamlike painting used for Saville:



Because many of these jackets -- and the overall practice of mid-20th century British jacket design in general -- are so important culturally and historically, and because so many of these illustrations are so delightful, we really enjoy using them and hope you like them too.  What do you think? 

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