A post for Halloween featuring a selection of covers from the “Fantastique” imprint of Belgian publisher Bibliothèque Marabout. The imprint, which was only labelled “Fantastique” on later editions, was launched around 1969 and ran through the 1970s before petering out in the early 1980s. The uniform cover design—almost always black with titles set in Roberta—is an attraction for paperback collectors even when the titles are very familiar ones, and when the cover art, most of which was the work of Henri Lievens (1920–2000), is sketchy and vague.
Among the Belgian writers rubbing shoulders with their more famous foreign counterparts are Jean Ray, author of the cult novel Malpertuis, playwright Michel de Ghelderode, and Thomas Owen (the pen-name of Gérald Bertot). Not all of the artwork is credited but most of the examples here are the work of the prolific Lievens, an artist whose cobwebbed eccentricities sometimes exceed the bounds of their brief; that flapping creature on the cover of The White People by Arthur Machen has no analogue in any of Machen’s stories. Later covers in the series saw contributions from Jean Alessandrini, with collages that were the subject of an earlier post. Marabout is still publishing today, albeit in a reduced fashion, having relocated to France where the company is now a tiny part of the Hachette empire.
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It’s that Golem again, depicted in 1979 by Jean Alessandrini. The publisher was Bibliothèque Marabout, a French fantasy/horror imprint active from the 1960s to the 1990s that was the genre division of Éditions Marabout, itself a division of publishing behemoth Hachette. Bibliothèque Marabout published a wide range of titles, with many familiar names in addition to writers such as Jean Ray, Thomas Owen and Paul Féval whose work receives little attention in the Anglophone sphere. By 1970, many of these covers had a uniform appearance, predominantly painted illustrations on black backgrounds with the titles set in Roberta, one of the Art Nouveau-styled typefaces of the occult revival. All the Alessandrini covers date from the late 70s and early 80s, and show an evolution of the imprint’s style, with the same black livery but a different typeface that I can’t identify (Coliseum is the closest digital equivalent), together with artwork that’s more of a design rather than an illustration of the book’s contents.
Jean Alessandrini is a French artist, designer, typographer and author, also the creator of Typomanie, a book of type designs that I’d like to see. He provided cover drawings in the late 1960s for French SF magazine, Fiction, and later worked for the popular comics magazine Pilote, but his Marabout covers look like collage works, with the grainy appearance of photocopied photos that Neville Brody also favoured for his album cover designs. The combination of a simple symbolic graphic in bright colours on a black background is very reminiscent of David Pelham’s designs for Penguin, some of which also used collage elements. French genre titles seldom seem to follow design trends exterior to France so if there was a Penguin influence at work it’s an unusual case.
Jean Alessandrini has a small but well-designed website here.
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