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Cover Art Cubism
This 1948 jacket for William Carlos Williams’ book-length poem Paterson was designed by Alvin Lustig for New Directions Publishing’s New Classics series, a collection of reprints of modern literature. Lustig and Williams, a self-expressive graphic designer and a painterly writer, respectively, are a particularly complimentary pair, of the many authors whose work Lustig visually rendered....
Gatsby’s Return
This 1947 book cover for The Great Gatsby was designed by Alvin Lustig (American 1915–1955) as part of the New Classics project. Initiated in 1939 by New Directions Publishing, the New Classics project created a series of cutting edge reprints of classic novels.  When F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel was first published in 1925, it garnered...
Bound but not Broken
Frank Karslake introduced the Guild of Women Binders in 1898 after meeting an influential group of female bookbinders in various parts of Britain; many of whom worked in shops under men or even from their own homes.  Karslake first became interested in these makers in 1897 when he visited the Victorian Era Exhibition at the Earl’s...
Deco Dictators
Contemporary critics generally considered Gustav Jensen’s stylish illustrations and overall design for “The Rise of Rome” to be the highlight of the 1932 publication. The book, a simplified history of Rome’s transition from Republic to the Imperial rule of the Caesars, was written for a high-school audience by Gordon Congdon King.  Reviews frequently complimented Jensen’s contributions, noting the pleasing “aesthetic experimentation” in format,...
Bright orange cover with text and illustraion
Caricature Miscellany
By Annaleigh McDonald This bright gem from the Cooper Hewitt Library’s rare book collection contains the work of George Grosz, a German artist who immigrated to the United States at age 39 in 1933, eventually becoming a naturalized citizen in 1938. Known for his scathing caricatures of post-war life in Germany, Grosz was vehemently anti-Nazi,...
Burning Book Covers
If you’re judging this book by its cover, Chip Kidd’s 1989 design for Watching the Body Burn by Thomas Glynn might encourage you to wonder what crazy contents lie within. The disjointed imagery, text, and loud colors certainly draw consumer attention, but Kidd’s design is more than a sales tactic—the frenetic cover design complements the...
A Subtle Scandal
In celebration of Women’s History Month, Cooper Hewitt is dedicating select Object of the Day entries to the work of women designers in our collection. A pioneer of graphic design in New York City, Louise Fili is known for stylized, retro-inspired work that strongly favors Art Deco motifs. Her work is lauded for its creative...
Elaine Lustig Cohen: An Interview
Designer and artist Elaine Lustig Cohen was married to Alvin Lustig from 1948 to 1955. She managed her husband’s studio, serving as a secretary, production assistant, and draftsperson—the “office slave,” as she recalls. As Lustig lost his eyesight to diabetes, he increasingly relied on his wife to execute his concepts. Following Lustig’s death in 1955,...
Hand-Lettered Illuminations
A book cover must quickly capture a viewer’s attention and provoke curiosity about the content within, contributing an enduring element to the reader’s experience. The covers designed by Alvin Lustig in the 1940s and 1950s employ abstracted iconography and simple typography and lettering to create emotionally compelling representations of a book’s themes. Lustig, who died...