Some more vintage book covers I snapped recently, my favorite being the Jugendstil-ish Prince of the House of David. No credit was given for that illustration or for the calligrapher who did the hand-lettering on the Pakistan cover. However, the Steinbeck cover and interior were illustrated by Paris Review founding art editor, William Pène Du Bois, a prolific children’s book author in his own right.
A rotating exhibit at the Lillian Goldman Visitor Center of the Seed Savers Exchange highlights some beautiful seed catalog covers from days gone by. I’m nowhere near Decorah, IA, but if you aren’t either, don’t fret. They’re updating this Facebook photo album with samples from the exhibit. Hopefully they’ll be adding more as this is merely the inaugural selection. When you’re done, you should also check out another album of “Early 1900’s Seed Catalog Tin Signs & Magnets,” which they’ve re-issued as tin replicas that you can buy in their online store.
If ever I yearned to be in New York City in the winter it was now. On display now through February 15 the AIGA National Design Center in New York hosts The Lustigs: A Cover Story, described by AIGA as “an encyclopedic exhibition of the Lustigs’ design work.” Lovers of visual junk already know I’m a fan of the Lustigs’ work and so my excitement about this should come as no surprise. Their individual graphical styles seemed to complement each other’s, which one might expect in a husband and wife dynamic. However, both Elaine’s and Alvin’s work stand strongly as individual bodies in and of themselves.
What makes this particular exhibition shine is that many of the works are presented in final form — meaning that, in addition to the usual framed, precious-objects-behind-glass, many works appear as vintage printed books mounted to the walls (see inset). Such a presentation makes a world of difference; like seeing the actual Mona Lisa rather than a picture in a book — no matter how beautifully it was reproduced. See you in New York!
Steven Heller posted this piece on Elaine Lustig Cohen’s recent talk at MoMA’s Library and Museum Archives on the museum’s collection of works by her late husband, legendary graphic designer Alvin Lustig (previously lusted over on this website). Cohen is, of course, a superb graphic designer in her own right and probably too often overshadowed by Mr. Lustig’s high-profile body of work. My favorite piece of hers I discovered years after acquiring it. Huh? Picked up for a song in an NYC used book store, Jose Ortega y Gasset’s On Love: Aspects of a Single Theme sat on my bookshelf of design fetishes for years before I’d ever bothered to look up who’d designed the cover—even though her signature was plainly visible.
Does this really require any more clarification or editorialization? Seriously, any link on the Cover Browser home page could be its own entry here. Well, when you’re done drooling over the cover art wishing you’d saved every mint issue of your childhood, click the “Labs” link in the upper-right-hand corner of the page. This will be a real time-killer for sure. Like the “Color Search” was for me!
Thanks to @brandi_duncan for turning me on to FaceOut Books and their inspiring blog, which features among others these wonderful book covers designed by Alvin Lustig. Reminiscent of Alexander Steinweiss’ covers for Columbia records, Lustig exploited the silhouette as design element and hand-drawn scripts to wonderfully tasteful heights. If you’ve read any of the books whose covers he designed for authors as varied as Franz Kafka to Henry James you will probably find that they were equally illustrative from a context standpoint. One can see resemblances to fellow modernist Paul Rand in the geometric and free-form shapes he used as well as his love for color. Check them out and be inspired.