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  • Writer's pictureSteven Heller

Tailor-Fit Jackets

There are few design media more persuasive to me than book jackets. Despite the ease of Amazon, I can still spend hours in bookstores browsing tables of jackets and covers that exert magnetic allure. There is also nothing to compare with perusing the shelves of vintage bookshops to find those beauties that had even more power on customers during the age when dust wrappers telegraphed their messages in often avant garde ways.

In 1995 Seymour Chwast and I edited Jackets Required, a book about American jacket designs from the 1920s–1940s focusing mostly on genres like mysteries, Westerns, romances, thrillers, histories and more. I collected scores of oldies for that book. But I had not come across the majority of the exceptional specimens in Martin Salisbury’s The Illustrated Dust Jacket 1920–1970 (Thames & Hudson). His book is organized by designer and contains a wealth of mostly English and a few American designers whose work is as beautiful as it rare. I’ve spent the better part of two months poring over every jacket and have not regretted a moment.

Familiar and unfamiliar names abound. More female designers than I had expected to find. And a wide range of styles, from surreal to representational, handlettered to typeset. The book is also handsomely designed with generously sized images. That these ostensibly ephemeral printed pieces have survived is extraordinary, and Salisbury’s celebration of them (and their makers) is even more so.

Eric Fraser (1902–1983)

Victor Reinganum (1907–1995)

Hans Tisdall (1910–1997)

Susan Einzig (1922–2009)

Vanessa Bell (1979–1961)

C.W. Bacon (1905–1992)

Barbara Jones (1912–1978)

Aubrey Hammond (1894–1940)

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