Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Cover Archives

Even before I knew what graphic design was, I was entirely certain I wanted something to do with the creation of book covers. I remember reading my mom's old copies of the Oz series as a child, relishing the pressed red letters of "Ozma" over mustard yellow cloth binding, the enchanting illustrations of John R. Neil glued to front covers. L. Frank Baum's children's tales were published in the first and second decades of the 20th century by The Reilly & Lee Co. in Chicago. The illustrations were most likely created using multi-tone lithography and resonated with the Art Nouveau style that was so popular at the time.

Naturally, as times and printing methods changed so did cover designs. I have developed a deep fondness for book covers through the ages — from Tschichold's iconic Penguin paperbacks of the late 1940s (a revision of Edward Young's original three panel cover design) to the contemporary greats like Chip Kidd, Barbara deWilde, and Rodrigo Corral. I love them for their boldness, for their exquisite typography, their visual syntax, for their dreamy photos and tampered illos, cultural signifiers and historic revelry. Perhaps you, like I, go to book stores to browse only the covers, not the content ... or recognize a certain publication left out at a dinner party by the cover artist. For shame!

In any case, if you want to get your cover design on, here are 2 fabulous sites. Alexander S. Budnitz has an incredible cover archive, chronicled by date and searchable by designer. And Ben Pieratt of General Projects and Eric Jacobsen of Whisky Van Gogh Go edit and maintain the Book Cover Archive (For the Purpose of Appreciation and Categorization), which has a more versatile search capacity in addition to fabulous resources like designer portfolio sites and other book cover obsessed links. I'm quite sure there are more sites like this, and I'd love to know about them so don't be shy, do write in. In the meantime, I'm pretty happy poking around these two. I hope you enjoy them as well, and stay tuned for a future post on the Oz series just as soon as a get a chance to fire up the scanner.

You can see part of my own cover collection here on TT in a two-part series, Lovely Books I and Lovely Books II. Enjoy!


  1. What a beautiful book covers! I love old book covers and have a little collection of them, found on fleamarkets :) Thank you for the site links and the great post! ( sorry that i don't have links for you as well, but if I find them, i will deffenitly update you :))

  2. Hey Darja! That is so cool. You should invest in a scanner or borrow a camera if you don't have one already and start archiving them! As print publications wane and these covers are relegated to the flea markets of the world, it is comforting to find them alive and well online.

  3. That's a good idea, I will scan them and make a post, because it's always nice to share those 'old beauty's' :)


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