With e-books making serious inroads, will the art of the book—illustration, illumination, printing, typography—fall by the wayside? We hope not. Beautiful books of all ages and all types are a joy. We invite you to check out these links to websites, blogs, and videos that celebrate the factors that go into making of a fine (or even bad) book.
BOOK & COVER DESIGN
Book Cover Archive
This website presents visual images of excellent book covers “for the purpose of appreciation and categorization in book cover design.” In addition to the cover, you’ll also find recommendations for books on cover design, a list of portfolio sites for book cover designers, and other sites on book cover design.
Book Cover Archive Blog
Belonging to the Book Cover Archive, this wonderful blog is more image than talk. Isn’t that the way a book cover design blog should be? By the way, where there is talk, it is interesting.
Book Covers Anonymous
A blog of book covers with minimal commentary. What I particularly like about this one is its clean look and utter simplicity. The two designers are enthusiastic about what they post and they don’t restrain their enthusiasm.
Focusing exclusively on vintage American paperbacks of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s (though it takes contributions more than thirty years old now), this site is the largest and most extensive one devoted to the cover images and graphics of these now collectible books. Special sections include back covers, artistic interpretations, and twins.
. . . . By Henry Sene Yee Design
This blogger is a book cover designer, and he uses the site to share his superb cover designs. After stints with Pantheon and St. Martin’s Press, he moved over to Picador to become their creative director. This blog is an excellent window into the book design covers of one publisher.
Subtitled “Books, Design & Culture,” this Canadian-based blog celebrates, well, books and design in modern culture and publishing. The comments are sharp, witty, and wonderfully on point, noting connections and associations that might not be known to those of us who enjoy design from an amateur’s stand but are nevertheless enthusiastic about it.
Caustic Cover Critic
James Morrison likes to “rant” about book design, and that’s fine given that he’s a rather interesting ranter. He doesn’t just talk about books from large publishers but seeks out smaller ones that offer first-rate presentations as well as foreign editions. He wanders far and wide in his search for superb covers, and the result is a commentary that is spicy and unique.
One of the most famous of book jacket designers, Chip Kidd, who has been designing covers for Alfred A. Knopf since 1986, has a lot to share. In this 47-minute video presentation delivered at OFFSET 2009, he does just that with humor and biting wit.
This is serious hunting ground for design lovers. You can actually browse the covers of specific comics, pulp, and more clicking on “Books” will take you to a page where you’ll find an astonishing array of choices including publisher names, subjects, series, authors, bestselling books, and much more. You could spend weeks here and still have more to see.
There are few books that entice generations of designers, but one of those is Lolita, the infamous novel by Vladimir Nabokov. This page offers a beautiful array of them—more than 150 from thirty-three countries and over the course of fifty-four years. What’s especially interesting about this kind of set-up is the opportunity it offers for comparison. How did this one book inspire so many variations in it’s dust jackets?
This site focuses on book covers of the nineteenth century. Why would this be of interest? Because this was the time of change from leather or paper-bound books to cloth-covered boards. It charts, pictorially, the evolution of covers from the simple where covers were designed to be utilitarian to the ornate, where they became decorative for the sake of decoration. Using books from the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature, Cover Story is a wonderful chronological trip through children’s book covers during their period of development.
Covers. Yup, just covers—which makes sense when you read that this site is “dedicated to the appreciation of book cover design.” It’s a fascinating look at the newest looks down the literary runway.
Czech Book Covers of the 1920s and 1930s
This exhibition by the Smithsonian Institution is a wonderful showcase of the avant-garde book design for both the general public and special commissions and limited editions that developed in the Czechoslovak Republic in the period between the two world wars, that is, the 1920s and 1930s. What is shown here are those books in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum library’s rare books collection.
Face Out Books
This is a different kind of site where the idea is to “appreciate the practice of book cover design” and the “challenges and outcomes” of projects by various designers. Short interviews with the designers provides insight into their work—and there are some real beauties here.
Very little commentary this blog provides lots and lots of new and old covers—all of them intriguing.
Judge a Book by Its Cover
For lots of laughs, this blog is the place to come. You want to see some bad cover designs? Look here. Especially captivating (or repelling, depending on your taste) are the covers that qualify for their Mammary Mondays and Phallic Phridays.
Old-Timey Paperback Book Covers
These Flickr pages filled with “Old-Timey Paperback Book Covers” are a hoot. Pulp fiction covers galore are presented here, and it’s easy to see why they sold so well to the (mostly) male audience to whom they were marketed.
things magazine has many interests—“curatorial tendencies, random collections, objects old and new, contemplations and discoveries.” Among them is the Pelican Project, a collection of Pelican Books covers from the 1930s into the 1980s.
Though this blog by Penguin Books is not devoted exclusively to book design, it does have a lot of that in it. That’s because Penguin is devoted to beautiful cover art, especially in the Classics division. The blog is an absolute delight, and highly recommended.
Tal Goretsky is a cover designer, and he uses this blog to discuss (briefly) and show off his designs. His work for a lot of the larger houses spans a wide range of genres and he obviously has talent in all of them.
War of the Worlds Cover Archive
This famous novel has been the recipient of numerous editions and cover designs. This page may not have them all but it has an amazing variety, an excellent way to appreciate the concepts that cover designers bring to the books they design.
This terms itself a “cyber home for the altered artist.” For those who are or for those who want to be, Altered Book offers skills and techniques that allow you to make your inspiration come true by taking an old book and adding your own artwork (pictures, paint, chalk, fiber, ribbon, lace, ephemera, etc.) to craft a one-of-a-kind creation.
His altered books are nothing short of fantastic, and you can see the work—yes, they are for sale—on any of the gallery links or on his Flickr page that you see on the home page linked here.
Daniel specializes in wooden-covered art books and book-based sculptures that feature “unusual woods, handmade paper, found objects, fossils, and mica.” These are amazing designs and exquisite work.
Perhaps the most stunning of all book artists is Su Blackwell, whose work is almost beyond belief. Yes, these delicate structures are made from the pages in the books on which they reside. Stupendous is not a strong enough word. Inspiring would also be applicable.
The action of various pulp novels, under the creative touch of Thomas Allen, literally jumps from the gaudy covers into reality. The cut-bent-juxtaposed figures of villains and damsels in distress from old pulp novel covers battle each other and pose dramatically in three dimensions with lighting that enhances the sense of story in the recreated staged dramas.
Yahoo Group: Altered Books
For those fascinated by or involved in altered books, this group provides a place to share information, ideas, tips, techniques and other discussions on the how-tos of creating altered books and, to a lesser extent, on other paper art. Altered books, as defined here, refers to “an existing book that has been changed or altered.... ‘glued, painted, collaged, rubber stamped, cut, torn, or added to. It is an expression of one’s self, a piece of art, an experiment or a conversation piece.’ There is also an extensive list of resources, vendors, workshops, and links. You must join in order to see and participate in this group.
Briar Press is an online community of nearly 50,000 letterpress printers, book artists, and old-time press enthusiasts who are dedicated to the preservation of both the equipment and the art of fine printing circa 1820. They have a Museum of Printing Presses, a Cuts & Caps page that offers scanned ornaments and initials from old specimen books converted into vector line art, a classified ad page, a list of private presses, a specialty Yellow Pages, and a fabulous discussion forum.
Old Skool Printing
A letterpress printer talks about the beauty and art of letterpress printing as practiced in the fifteenth century—and in the twenty-first by some printers who love the machinery and the result. It’s a wonderful trip through the world of this antique printing.
This 1947 video, part of the Life Work Series from Vocational Guidance Films, illustrates the various opportunities that printing offers as a career and was intended for young people seeking a trade after high school.
GENERAL BOOK ARTS
One of if not the primary blog for connoisseurs and fans of book art, BibliOdyssey is almost all art and little talk. Which is as it should be. You’ll find nearly one hundred categories including countries, subjects, people, and time periods. This is unquestionably one of the most exquisite blogs around.
Book Arts Web
A kind of hub where many book arts-related sites come together, this site features links to professional organizations, e-mail lists, book arts education, book arts blogs, tutorials and reference, letterpress and printmaking resources, book binders and book artists, conservation and preservation sites, calligraphy resources, paper sites and papermaking, fine press books and booksellers, related sites and publications, and galleries with images. They also offer online exhibitions and if you subscribe, you also have full access to their archives. It’s an amazing site.
This site, writes Shawn Hazen, “represents the obsessions of an atypical book collector,” meaning that the books he highlights are not necessarily valuable in others’ eyes but are graphically interesting. Most of them are from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s so you do see a common graphic strain running through them, but what’s particularly interesting is getting a professional’s point of view on ordinary, perhaps forgotten but visually interesting books.
Seven Roads: Gallery of Book Trade Labels
One of the least known of all biblio interests are what are known as book trade labels. These are the labels pasted into the endpapers of books. They were used by booksellers, binders, printers, publishers, importers, and distributors to advertise their part in bringing the book to market. It is quite an extraordinary collection of many people who scan the images from the pages of their books, and it shows the pride that each contributor made.
If you live in Chicago, you may recognize some of many of these places, but you may have never really looked at them before. It is the intent of Shawn Hazen, a graphic designer, to highlight what he terms the city’s “layer after layer of architecture and design.” And it does give even non-Chicagoans an appreciation for how influential building signs and structure can be.
David the Designer: 52 Fonts You Could Use in Place of Helvetica
This link is a bit unusual in that it goes to one specific post from October 2009 rather than to a blog or website. This particular post lists fifty-two suggestions for fonts that the designer feels are good substitutes for the often-used Helvetica. “It’s a sort of ‘Joy of Text’,” he writes. “The design equivalent of ‘there’s more to life than the missionary position.’ ”
This site describes itself as “a daily dispatch of recommended fonts, typography techniques, and inspirational examples of digital type at work in the real world.” What it offers may be of interest more to type designers than the layperson, but if you have a passionate if non-professional interest in fonts you’ll find it worth reading. It’s amazingly detailed and full of up-to-date information.
Hoefler & Frere-Jones
This firm specializes in creating fonts for private corporate clients, but its site offers a fascinating trip through their own typefaces. Visiting here is a good opportunity to browse the cutting edge designs in typography.
Want to figure out what font that is? This site is the largest independent directory of typefaces on the Internet. You can search by appearance, name, similarity, pictures, designers, or publishers. If you are not sure, you can answer a series of questions that will help narrow down the possibilities. With their “fontifier” your handwriting can become your own font.
I Love Typography
Erik Spiekermann loves looking at type. In fact, he says, “I get a total kick out of it.” He takes his camera wherever he goes (he’s a Britisher living in Japan) and records samples of type to share on this blog. But his real goal is to be a “one-stop shop for everything about typography, from terminology to new typefaces, from inspirational examples of type to choosing the best typeface for the job, whether that be on-or off-line.”
It is here that people who design and make custom letters—type designers, letterers, sign painters, graffiti artists, stone carvers, calligraphers, poster artists, graphic designers—are highlighted and honored. Submissions from around the Internet, and from movie titles, logos, magazines, comics, books, posters, and more are showcased for everyone’s pleasure.
Periodic Table of Typefaces
This is a single post of a blog that has what most of us remember as the Periodic Table that hung behind the professor in chemistry class. Here you will find 100 of the most popular, influential, and notorious typefaces of today that have been grouped categorically (by families and classes of typefaces such as sans-serif, series, script, and so on). It’s a fun look and an educational one.
The Snark: Home of the Verbal Irony Mark
This self-named collective is devoted to promoting the “world’s most infamous punctuation” known as the snark (a period plus a tilda or”.~”), which is intended as “a single, consistent and attractive solution to marking verbal irony in text passages.” It comes at the end of a sentence. The history, according to the site, began with French poet Alcanter de Brahm, who proposed an irony mark, and was later championed by French novelist Hervé Bazin in the 1960s. In 1997, it appeared as the title figure in the art magazine, Point d’ironie. In this age of electronic communications, this mark, claims The Snark, is needed more than ever.
Subtitled “Documents for the History of Type and Letterforms,” Type Foundry uses this blog to life the genuinely interesting history of the type used in various historical documents. The explanations are clear and concise yet filled with information. This is an especially well-done site that even novices will appreciate.
Dedicated to providing an “interactive experience informed by type and typography,” this site by Gerald Unger also “aims to illustrate the depth and import of type, and to raise relevant questions about how typography is treated in the digital media, specifically online.” What you’ll find here is pages that detail the evolution in the development of letterforms, a timeline of typography, the anatomy or structure of letterforms, a gallery, some studies, a glossary of typographic terms, and a bibliography.
This site offers an excellent hangout for typeface fanatics. Loaded with type reviews, books, and commentary its editor, Stephen Coles, offers several ways to look at font. You can search by feature, designer, foundry, and classification. At the beginning of each year, a list of the previous year’s favorite fonts is chosen and displayed. What’s particularly nice is that you have the opportunity to see them in detail.
The Typographic Archives
If you want to learn about the history of typography and printing, this is the site for you. It is a digital library that “extracts the content from the Internet’s WayBack Machine or Archive Project), then modifies what it takes to improve both readability and searchability. It has been organized into six sections (Typographic visionaries, Elements of typesetting style, Old Phototypesetter tales, a Q&A, The Crystal Goblet and a glossary). The site was written by Michael Sanborn who views it as “the museum serves as both a gallery of typographic trivia and a repository of information.”
The name says it all. If you are a typophile, you are going to love the resources and support you will find here including Type ID (where you can ask experts questions about fonts), Blogs (where the various members post from their own blogs), Book Reviews, Small Talk, Typography 101 (interactive lessons on type styles), and Typography 110 (interactive lessons on type design). Plus, there is an active forum that is nothing but typography!
We Love Typography
This site is devoted to type-related content in all its formats: image, video, and text “bookmarking.” Only members can post, but everyone can share the fun, intriguing, beautiful, surprising and otherwise delightful example of typography that can be found here.
It’s the best of two worlds: typography with a sense of humor!