Wroblewski covers Burroughs


Picador, 1982.

Being an occasional cover designer I naturally have a more than passing interest in how the books of favourite writers are packaged. I’ve mentioned a couple of times how much I liked the covers that Thomi Wroblewski produced in the 1980s for UK editions published by Picador and John Calder. Wroblewski is a designer who also creates his own artwork using a variety of media, with some form of collage being a common technique. Burroughs has had a number of decent designs over the years but Wroblewski is one of the few people loosed on his books who seemed to fully appreciate the tenor of the writing, and was able to convey something essential without ever being too abstract or too illustrative. I’d have been happy to see him design a complete range of the titles.


Picador, 1982.

Most of the covers here have been swiped from the excellent Burroughs page at Beat Book Covers where you can judge Wroblewski’s work against other editions. An exception below is the art for an unknown edition of The Wild Boys, a picture described as being from 1988 so it may have been on a Picador cover I’ve never seen. The only cover at Beat Book Covers using that art is a later Russian edition. If anyone can say when and where Wroblewski’s picture was first used, please leave a comment.


Calder, 1984.

Also below is an album cover from Wroblewski’s parallel career as a music designer. Minutes was an audio magazine released in 1987 on the LTM label, and is included here since two of the tracks were Burroughs readings. The album has never been reissued but a copy from the vinyl can be downloaded here. Worthwhile mainly for WSB and Winston Tong of Tuxedomoon.

For more about the elusive Thomi Wroblewski, Momus wrote something about him a couple of years ago. There’ll be more about The Wild Boys, and Winston Tong, tomorrow.


Calder, 1985.


Calder, 1985.


Calder, 1986.


Minutes, 1987.


Art for The Wild Boys, 1988.


Picador, 1989.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The book covers archive
The William Burroughs archive

6 thoughts on “Wroblewski covers Burroughs”

  1. I love Wroblewski’s work. His Cities of the Red Night collage is surely the best cover art Burroughs ever had. I first came across him via his Momus covers, but unknowingly already had some Thomi in my record collection courtesy of his powerful illustration for the Banshees’ Juju lp.

    Another favourite Burroughs cover of mine is the Corgi 1973 edition of The Wild Boys, which somehow manages to tick all the right boxes in a groovy airbrushed kind of way.

    PS. I really miss Click Opera!

  2. Wonderful post for me, because these are the editions that introduced me to Burroughs (with the exception of the Paladin Naked Lunch with the screaming blue face).

    As I’ve no doubt droned on about in these comments in the past, there was a fantastic remaindered bookshop in Northampton in the pre-Amazon 80s that stocked a wide selection of Calder publications. I think I may actually have picked up the Schultz, Job, Ticket and Adding Machine editions from this post in one visit, as well as Gysin’s Last Museum and The Process. Grand days.

  3. One of my Burrough’s books depicts a cover by Wroblewsky (Cities of the Red Night). The other ones are old english and american editions, including two brazlian ones.

  4. Good to see more of his work. I’ve always wondered what the background texture(s) on Cities of the Red Night is/are. It’s weirdly effective.

  5. 3lbFlax: Your Northampton shop sounds like the equivalent of Percival’s in Manchester, until they closed in the mid-80s the best shop in the city for arty/underground books like the Calder and Picador titles.

    James: The background has the craquelure of something like enamel paint. Maybe even wax. For the Burroughs portrait I did years ago (which should have been a lot better) I got an interesting effect by painting over layers of latex masking fluid. Wouldn’t mind trying that again some time, the process had interesting possibilities.

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