Penguin Surrealism


Design by Germano Facetti with a detail from Europe after the Rain by Max Ernst.

Is this the start of a new meme? Ace Jet 170 features a number of posts about the history of Penguin and Pelican book cover design. (I won’t link to any specific page as the site is full of other good stuff which you really ought to go and look at.) Now Dan Hill at City of Sound has followed suit, inspiring me to dig out a few choice volumes connected by theme, in this case the use of Surrealist paintings for cover art.

See also:
The Penguin Collectors’ Society
The Penguin Paperback Spotters’ Guild (Flickr pool)


Detail from La Ville Pétrifiée by Max Ernst.


Detail from Landscape from a Dream by Paul Nash.


The Triangular Hour by Salvador Dalí.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The book covers archive

11 thoughts on “Penguin Surrealism”

  1. I am so tempted to join in this little meme, I work part time in a bookshop which has something like 100ft of pengiun and pelican books. It was either your good self or acejet – or possibly both – who introduced me to the wonders of the pattern designs on the Penguin Poets series and I’ve since been buying them up all over the place and I did post them at some point.

    I have to say that beyond doubt, my favourite of the ones above is The Man in the High Castle which, I have noticed over the years, has had a remarkable series of good fortune with the covers that have been designed for it’s many reprints.

    In fact, thinking about it, I currently have a selection of the Penguin New Writing series to hand… hmmm… I think I feel a scanning moment coming on…

  2. I think it was probably Mr Ace Jet who referred to the grid systems used on Penguin books. I feel rather shame-faced about my paltry collection, many of which are in bad shape (although I think the Sartre one above is actually the worst). Interesting lateral choices many of these; they don’t always immediately fit but the juxtaposition encourages you to make a connection between the painting and the book.

  3. ‘Paltry’ is also the word for the Penguins here at Jonestown. Although I find that I’m always searching for the definitive edition (in my eyes) of, say, Nineteen Eighty-Four or War of the Worlds. For instance, currently re-reading Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One, a 1951 orange-and-white copy, but I doubt I’ll hang on to it, as I might look again for the edition with Robert Morley (from the film adaptation) on the cover.
    A small indulgence: the most valued (to me) Penguin I have here is the 1959 edition of Against Nature, picked up in the local Oxfam shop for 99p. And then, of course, a few weeks later in Lincoln, browsing through the rather pricey Oxfam bookshop there, I find another copy, a quid fifty more expensive…
    Obviously, like a fool I bought it.

  4. If you check out the City of Sound post you’ll see a number of 1984 covers, most of which aren’t so hot. The megaphone one is better than most.

    I always liked the War of the Worlds cover shown in my WotW post although it doesn’t quite convey the mayhem of Wells’ novel. Was part of a series of Well’s SF as I recall, all with similar designs.

  5. Although not a Penguin, the motherlode for myself would be the Edward Gorey WotW jacket…

  6. Yes, that’s the one, John. Gorey’s war machines look ready to invade a seemingly sedate Edwardian garden party, where, behind a bush somewhere, someone is doing something quite horrible to one innocent party or another…
    Incidentally, the definitive war machines – for me – are Kevin O’Neill’s in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume two: pure alien horror.
    Idea for a post: Tripod illustrations over the years?

  7. Nash’s 1938 Portrait of a Dream would be an excellent cover for Eric Frank Russell’s 1939 ‘Sinister Barrier’. A story of globes of energy controlling mankind. My copy dates from 1986 (Methuen) but I’m pretty sure its been reprinted more recently.

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