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True or false, can you judge a book by its cover? Some book jackets, dust jackets or covers are classics in the graphic art field. The book A Room with a View brings together a great classic story, by one of the greatest English novelists, and some really good graphic artists who were either book illustrators to begin with or lucky artists who developed the skills they thought necessary.

To expound a little, below is the original edition in the publisher’s cloth without a book jacket, of A Room with a View as it was published in 1908, written by E.M. Foster (1879-1970).Clipboard03 original foster The picture above is from the excellent site dedicated to this great British author by Rob Doll, Ph.D., who covers the writer and his books in great depth. Similar pictures can easily be found on the web using a search engine for images, and you will get a page full of modern covers. Below is another edition of the same book. Clipboard01This one is from the early 1920’s issued without a dust jacket. New Directions, the publishing house, would later use Alvin Lustig, the American graphic icon, to design a number of book dust jackets. The edition of A Room with a View I favor is the the copy below from my own  book shelves.

img784This inexpensive book edition put this wonderful novel in the hands of the American public at large. The Vintage book editions were a serious effort to publish the best for less, and that did not include bland covers. The best and most famous book designers lend their hand like George Salter (1897-1967) a German born and trained illustrator and book designer, brother of another graphic artist Stefan Salter. A major reference book for his early work, now unfortunately out of print, was written by Juergen Holstein, a well known German antiquarian book dealer, and perhaps one of the best in his field. (Georg Salter: Bucheinbände und Schutzumschläge aus Berliner Zeit, 1922-1934; Georg Salter: Book Bindings and Dust Jackets from the Berlin Period, 1922-1934 (Berlin: Jürgen Holstein, 2003).

img783George Salter put his calligraphic talents to good use, and the book cover looks as good in this reduced format as it would in a larger hardbound copy, in my opinion. In 2005 another bibliographic work on George Salter was published by the Princeton Architectural Press written by Thomas S.Hansen, with the title Classic Book Jackets: The Design Legacy of George Salter. Images and a good bibliography can be found on this site by Wellesley College.

The collection of Thomas S. Hansen was acquired by the venerable Leo Baeck Institute in 2009. It is not easy to find the corresponding images of the books, but all of them are digitized and can be seen here. Clicking the image takes you to the copyright page and the continue button allows you to visualize a larger image of the George Salter designs. Not an easy way alas, but worth the effort, if you want to see all of the images you will need some patience. Enough said about George Salter but there is more on the book itself.

A superb cover in my opinion is the one below by British artist David Gentleman for Penguin with a very nice interview with this designer about this cover, half way down the page in Creative Review., a British blog well worth reading.Clipboard02 david gentlemanThe cover represents a bit of the Salter idea, a simple sketch of the window and the necessary accoutrements like a coat hook in an Italian hotel done in black and white. In 1985 the Foster legacy and his book A Room with a view lived on in a film directed by James Ivory with an outstanding cast of actors.

Your “view” on 2013 and your “window on the world“, might change after you read the novel in any edition for that matter, and yes you can judge a book by its cover!

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