The hundred-year Voyage

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Today’s post at Wormwoodiana reminds me that David Lindsay’s unique novel of philosophical fantasy, A Voyage to Arcturus, was published a hundred years ago today. I designed a lavish reprint for Savoy Books in 2002, an edition which unfortunately used the re-edited text from earlier reprints instead of going to the original publication. This wasn’t done for lack of a first edition, it was more out of ignorance—nobody bothered to look into the history of the text—as well as convenience; Savoy’s earlier reprinting of Anthony Skene’s Monsieur Zenith the Albino had involved many weeks of text preparation, scanning pages from a photocopy of Skene’s very scarce novel, then running the copy through rudimentary OCR software and proofing the result. In Savoy’s slight defence, the reprint of Arcturus did correct a couple of typos that everyone else had missed.

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I still think the best feature of my design was the selection of Jean Delville’s remarkable Symbolist painting, The Treasures of Satan (1895), a picture used with the permission of the Brussels Museum of Fine Art. (They supplied us with a print of the painting together with a photo of Delville’s Angel of Splendour (1894) for the back cover.) With the exception of Bob Pepper’s artwork for the 1968 Ballantine paperback, previous reprints of the novel seldom reflected the contents on their covers. I’m no longer happy with the type layout on the rest of the dust-jacket, however, although the front cover looks okay. The Savoy edition included an introduction by Alan Moore, an afterword by Colin Wilson, a collection of philosophical aphorisms by David Lindsay, plus a couple of photos of the author which I don’t think had been published before. Despite its flaws, the book was well-received. The paper was heavier stock than is generally used for hardback fiction which made for a heavy and expensive volume but the edition still sold out.

Penguin are reprinting the novel next year in an edition which continues the tradition of unsuitable cover art. According to Lindsay site The Violet Apple the figure on the cover is from an illustration for a Dostoevsky novella, so what is it doing on Lindsay’s book? Cover art aside, the novel is in a class of its own, and very highly recommended.

Previously on { feuilleton}
The art of Bob Pepper
Masonic fonts and the designer’s dark materials

Milton Glaser album covers

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Music For Space Squirrels (1958) by Al Caiola’s Magic Guitars.

Having sought out Saul Bass’s album cover designs recently, curiosity impelled me to see what fellow New York designer Milton Glaser had been doing during the same period. I already knew some of Glaser’s covers for the Tomato label in the 1970s but Discogs has many more, including a handful in the Pop/psychedelic style he used most famously for his Bob Dylan poster. Not all of these are to my taste—illustration-wise I prefer Bob Pepper’s art—but Glaser was nothing if not versatile. I’ve no idea what Music for Space Squirrels sounds like although it’s probably less interesting than the promise of those floating rodents.

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Medium (1968) by The Mandrake Memorial.

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Grieg’s Greatest Hits (1969).

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The psychedelic art of Howard Bernstein

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Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny (1967).

I made a post a while back about the work of Bob Pepper, an artist whose illustrations from the 1960s can also be described as psychedelic and who was equally visible in the music and book publishing worlds. Howard Bernstein (not to be confused with musician Howie B) wasn’t as prolific as Pepper but this post was prompted by the appearance at Sci-Fi-O-Rama of the swirling abstractions of his Roger Zelazny cover. Like Pepper, Bernstein produced album cover art as well as book covers although it’s possible the Zelazny piece may have been a one-off. This was the jacket of the first edition and a rather flagrant attempt by Doubleday to co-opt the trendiness of the psychedelic style for a science fiction readership. They tried something similar with the cover for Harlan Ellison’s landmark anthology Dangerous Visions in the same year, the art in that case being the work of Leo & Diane Dillon. The Zelazny cover caught my attention for another reason, the typography is a variation on the 19th century Kismet typeface by John F Cumming which I used for my two Alice in Wonderland calendars and which turns up regularly in psychedelic design. And while we’re considering conjunctions of music and science fiction, I ought to note that the Hawkwind song Lord of Light lifts its title from Zelazny’s novel.

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The Heliocentric Worlds Of Sun Ra, Vol. I (1965).

As for Bernstein’s music work, most of this appears to have been for Bernard Stollman’s eccentric ESP Disk label where the roster of artists included many free-jazz greats along with The Fugs, William Burroughs, Timothy Leary and fringe psychedelic groups such as Pearls Before Swine, Cromagnon, The Godz and others. Bernstein’s Cromagnon cover (below) exists in both monochrome and coloured versions but the monochrome one seems to be the original. In fact much of his art looks like it was drawn in black-and-white with the colours being created by separations at the print stage. His poster for The Godz is especially striking, so much so I’m surprised to find there isn’t more of his work around. Wolfgang’s Vault has a blacklight poster and there are some other blacklight works here. If anyone knows of other posters, please leave a comment although I suspect if there was much more then Wolfgang’s Vault would have the goods.

Continue reading “The psychedelic art of Howard Bernstein”

More science fiction covers

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These science fiction cover galleries are becoming so ubiquitous it hardly seems worth cataloguing a new discovery. However… This pair are from the George Kelley Paperback and Pulp Fiction Collection at the University of Buffalo Libraries:

The UB Libraries’ George Kelley Paperback and Pulp Fiction Collection includes over 30,000 pulp fiction books and magazines. A selection of cover art images, representing more than 500 crime fiction and science fiction volumes found in the Kelley Collection, is featured in UBdigit. Colorful and dynamic, the cover art highlights a variety of artistic themes and imagery, reflecting the social and cultural trends of the period in which these covers were created. (More.)

The documentation is rather scant, unfortunately, but I recognised the Driftglass cover as being by Bob Pepper while the Brian N Ball (who he?) cover is a splendid piece of work by Kelly Freas which can be seen at a larger size and free of type here.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The book covers archive
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Bob Pepper

The Strawberry Alarm Clock

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I’m on a total psychedelia groove at the moment—again—so expect more posts like this. The iTunes playlist is stuck in 1965–69 and doesn’t exclude moments of kitsch psych such as Incense and Peppermints by the Strawberry Alarm Clock, their debut single and a big hit from 1967. Thoroughly infectious and redolent enough of the era to feature in the first Austin Powers film, nothing else they produced came close. There were other soundtrack moments, a track called Pretty Song was featured in Psych-Out (1968) and the band themselves appear in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), one of many reasons to watch that lunatic movie. I always liked this sleeve design—printed in a number of variations—but even that pales next to their surfboard-shaped guitars, created specially for the band. Read more about them here.

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Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Exotica!
The art of Bob Pepper
A splendid time is guaranteed for all
Heinz Edelmann
The L.S. Bumble Bee