Tag Archive: 60s

Happy Birthday to Me

Last week it was my 21st birthday, and after visiting a friend of mine who recently started working in Dubai, I was back in the UK less than 24 hours before heading  up to Blackpool with my closest friends to celebrate. The morning we left I received some awesome presents in the form of 7 old Penguin books, picked up from a charity shop. Now my friends know we very well, but it was still a lovely surprise. The exact present consisted of the books below (one is missing as I forgot to scan it in), one bottle of Asahi and two bottles of Tsingtao, which I drank copious amounts of in China, so thanks again, Ethan. On a side note, the Asahi website has some really cool Japanese style illustrations and graphics that I wouldn’t have seen unless I linked to their site, well worth a look.

These first two are nothing to shout about if I’m totally honest. The illustration on  ‘In a Free State’ , by Tony Scott, is rather surreal and to me the African tribe guys on the front kinda look like how your face goes after watching that tape from ‘The Ring’. Crayon illustration seems a rather unusual for a book cover, but that’s just because I’ve grown up in the age of computers and Paint Shop Pro. I much prefer the watercolour painting by David Gentleman on the other book. It’s rather plain, but has a ‘My wife paints in her spare time’ kinda quality, which I think is pretty charming. In fact, as I’m looking at it now, it’s really cool and refreshing to see a book cover that isn’t shouting at you for your attention, it’s a lovely, laid back little painting.

I quite like just how incredibly 60’s the cover for ‘Honey for the Bears’ is. Designed by Peter Bentley, the fat, rounded type and large-lined illustration, it could be right out of a BBC kids series, or a Woodstock flyer. After reading the blurb on the back though it appears he’s just translated the book’s title into a cartoon, where I think the actual story allows for some really imaginative design: “‘Honey for Bears’ is an Anglo-Russian comedy, which takes one, via laughter, into the heart of the Cold War world of mutual love-hate comprehension.” But then, what do I know? The cartoon could have already existed, or that could actually be a scene right out of the book, I’m just making massive assumptions so don’t take any criticism too serious if you’re reading this Mr. Bentley.

The back of ‘My Friend Says It’s Bullet-Proof’ (which I think is a great title for a book by the way) says ‘Cover design by Minale / Tattersfield / Provinciali’. I think it’s safe to assume at least one of those surnames is behind the great pencil sketch. If I had to guess I’d say one did the drawing, one did the hand-written title, and the other one just positioned them onto the cover. I really dig that drawing, as well as the blue title, and how it doesn’t fill up all the space available simply because it’s there. A good visual hierarchy too.

These last two are my favourites. ‘The Ginger Man’ above, designed by Henry Wilcock, looks great because of all the scratches and tears the plain black cover has endured since it was published in 1979. If it weren’t for the white imperfections, it would be, and still is obviously, an interesting cover design, thanks to the clashing typefaces. It’s weird and I’m not sure I like it all that much. The Impact-like font used for the authors name is the kind I’d expect to see (and usually do) on thrillers or spy novels, and the title font reminds me of the album cover for ‘The Sound of Bread‘, which my folks had when I was a kid. Also, why whack the author’s name centred at the top of the page when the Penguin logo occupies the upper-right corner? You’ve left tons of negative space, how’s about moving it down, or doing something to un-cramp that top line?

The one I can’t help but really like. Just look at how cheesy it is, the prim, distinguished looking Hornblower and that fancy, bold type. It’s not amazing, but I really dig it. The awesome illustration is by Kenneth Wynn (a very apt name as this book cover has WIN written all over it), and reminds me of the illustrated history books I’d often see years ago, very cool stuff. I’ve always envied people that can draw faces and have them look like real faces. Tat type too, very Herb Lubalin-esque and doesn’t quite seem right when it says it was printed in 1987. ’77 maybe, but that’s beside the point.

What cool presents, I now have even more wonderfully retro old books to add to my collection. Even more after our trip to Blackpool, but that will have to be its own post. Much love everybody.