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Alexandra Lange | Essays

The Ur-Paperback

Link: The Ur-Paperback

marycaple: An experimental layout by Jan Tschichold and Erik Ellegaard Frederiksen for Penguin Books, 1948

This great handmade layout for what now seems like a ubiquitous mass produced series—maybe the ur-paperback—reminded me of a piece I wrote for Metropolis long ago on remaking the Penguin line, Penguin Goes Punk. The whole story is slightly quaint now in terms of repackaging (see Penguin’s new line of gorgeous reissued hardcover classics), and I actually wish I hadn’t valorized the experiment. I would still rather have one of the originals too.

There are still holdouts. Hamilton has done 50 new covers, but he’s also commissioned at least 10 more that will never see the light of day: David Carson’s view of Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, for example. “The estate wouldn’t let us re-jacket the book. That’s happened quite often,” Hamilton says. “We’ve also had to send the visuals to authors in hospitals and we hear back, ‘Oh, no. I loved the jacket I had 35 years ago.’”

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