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SS-GB by Len Deighton, book covers

Contributed by Florian Hardwig on Mar 3rd, 2017. Artwork published in .
    Source: Shots Ezine. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Jonathan Cape, London 1978. Cover design by Raymond Hawkey, with centered caps from Windsor Elongated (and Times New Roman for the stamp).

    This post provides a broad overview over the diverse cover designs for some of the editions of Len Deighton’s alternative history novel SS-GB, set in a United Kingdom conquered and occupied by Germany during World War II.

    The first edition was published by Jonathan Cape in 1978, with a cover design by Raymond Hawkey (1930–2010), who was a friend and fellow art school graduate of Deighton. In an obituary for Hawkey, Rob Mallows quotes Len Deighton about Hawkey’s dedicated approach:

    For SS-GB, […] Ray produced a book of British stamps complete with Hitler’s head that stamp collectors cherish. He also had the photographer Adrian Flowers make a photo of Whitehall that could be exactly matched with a parade in Berlin to make a fake postcard of Hitler in London taking the salute of a march past.

    This photo appears on the back of the dust cover.

    Red and black is a recurrent theme. Unsurprisingly, several of the typographic choices are either decidedly British (Windsor!), or stereotypically (Nazi-)German, i.e. blackletter in general and schaftstiefelgrotesk in particular, see the Harper edition at the end of this post, as well as the title sequence for the current BBC series.

    Source: Rooke Books PBFA. License: All Rights Reserved.

    The title page seems to show the letters ‘SS-GB’ in Fette Fraktur, but what we actually are looking at is a fantasy ‘S’ (presumably built from other glyph parts), a modified ‘G’ (with the top right borrowed from ‘E’), and the letter ‘V’ standing in for ‘B’. The real fraktur thing was apparently deemed too difficult to decipher for the English readership.

    Source: License: All Rights Reserved.

    Panther, 1979. While the ‘SS’ part resembles Futura Condensed Extrabold, ‘GB’ and the author’s name are in an unidentified heavy grotesque more in line with the English models, featuring caps of regular widths and a very closed and round ‘G’ with spur. The smaller text is probably Franklin Gothic Extra Condensed.

    Source: AbeBooks. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Alfred A. Knopf, 1979. The curly letterforms rather say 1900s (or, well, 1970s) than 1940s. They are probably custom drawn, and not from a typeface.

    Source: Hijazo Libros. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Coleccion Naranja, Bruguera, Barcelona, 1980. Banco has been chosen to approximate the angular SS runes.
    The illustration shows jackboots (in German: Schaftstiefel) stomping over the Union Jack. This kind of boot gave its name to the derogatory term for the simplified gotisch typefaces that mushroomed in the first years of Nazi Germany.

    License: All Rights Reserved.

    Harper, 2009. The letterforms for the author’s name seem to be adopted directly from the Panther edition shown above. The first name was made a tad longer by means of stretching. Tannenberg (1934) is used for the title.


    • Windsor
    • Times New Roman
    • Fette Fraktur
    • Franklin Gothic
    • Banco
    • Tannenberg
    • unidentified typeface




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