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Philip Roth book jackets (1969–1975)

Contributed by Florian Hardwig on May 23rd, 2018. Artwork published in
circa 1969
.
    Portnoy’s Complaint, first US edition, Random House, 1969. Jacket design by Paul Bacon.
    Source: https://www.abebooks.com Darren Winston (edited). License: All Rights Reserved.

    Portnoy’s Complaint, first US edition, Random House, 1969. Jacket design by Paul Bacon.

    All of Philip Roth’s books published between 1969 and 1975 carry the same typographic signature. It consists of a bold condensed Caslon variant with swashes, set center-aligned, with the title and the author’s name separated by color.

    The first one in this series of hardcovers is the novel Portnoy’s Complaint, published by Random House in 1969. The jacket design is credited to Paul Bacon. Interestingly, this visual identity was maintained for subsequent books by other publishers, too, including UK editions by Jonathan Cape — it’s not the identity of the publisher, but really one of the author. Reading Myself and Others, an anthology of essays published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1975, was the last in this specific design, but Roth continued to be associated with bold swashy Caslons.

    The exact typeface has not been identified yet. A possible candidate is Caslon Contempo by Photo-Lettering, Inc. The sample in the One Line catalog from 1971 doesn’t show any swashes, but these might be custom additions. Some of the details appear to be customized anyway, see e.g. the two different forms for G in “Gang” and “Great”.

    Not included in this compilation is My Life as a Man, published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston (US) and Jonathan Cape (UK) in 1974 — it was featured in an earlier post by Stephen.

    Portnoy’s Complaint, first US edition, Random House, 1969. Jacket design by Paul Bacon.
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Boy de Haas. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Our Gang, first US edition, Random House, 1971. Note the swash g that forms an interlinear ligature with the i below.

    Portnoy’s Complaint, first US edition, Random House, 1969. Jacket design by Paul Bacon.
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Boy de Haas. License: All Rights Reserved.

    The Breast, Holt, first US edition, Rinehart and Winston, 1972.

    Portnoy’s Complaint, first US edition, Random House, 1969. Jacket design by Paul Bacon.
    Source: https://en.wikipedia.org Holt, Rinehart & Winston. License: Public Domain.

    The Great American Novel, first US edition, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1973, in red, white, and blue. Mary M. Ahern is credited for the design (of the interior?).

    Portnoy’s Complaint, first US edition, Random House, 1969. Jacket design by Paul Bacon.
    Source: https://www.abebooks.com Orlando Booksellers  (edited). License: All Rights Reserved.

    The Great American Novel, first UK edition, Jonathan Cape, 1973.

    Portnoy’s Complaint, first US edition, Random House, 1969. Jacket design by Paul Bacon.
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Boy de Haas. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Reading Myself and Others, first US edition, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975. The letterforms here are slightly different, with wider proportions, smaller caps, and longer ascenders. The swash ball terminals appear to be horizontally stretched.

    Portnoy’s Complaint, first US edition, Random House, 1969. Jacket design by Paul Bacon.
    Source: https://www.abebooks.com Setanta Books (edited). License: All Rights Reserved.

    Reading Myself and Others, first UK edition, Jonathan Cape, 1975. The letterforms are the same as on the US jacket, but the words were rearranged. The initial R got more legroom, the y in turn now crashes into the O.

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    1 Comment on “Philip Roth book jackets (1969–1975)”

    1. Jun 19th, 2018  7:46 pm

      See also the follow-up on the paperback covers by Bantam Books, featuring Benguiat Caslon.

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