Thursday, 12 March 2009

Beyond Miffy

Dutch illustrator and graphic designer Dick Bruna (born 1927) is best known for his hugely popular rabbit creation, Miffy.



Significantly less well-known outside Holland are his many bold, occasionally comic, and always eye-catching book cover designs for crime novels. 9For everything here, click for bigger, better versions.)

These include a number of Georges Simenons (some of which he also translated into Dutch)...








..Ian Fleming's James Bond books...



..as well as books by Havank (pen-name for Dutch journalist and novelist Hans van der Kallen, who, despite living most of his life outside the Netherlands, died of a heart attack in a hotel room only a few metres from his birthplace)...






..and the comic Tanner novels of Lawrence Block, about an adventurer who, unable to sleep due to a Korean War injury, devotes all his extra time to learning strange new skills.




Bruna has also done covers for a number of other authors.









Almost all of these covers were for Dutch publishing house Zwarte Beertjes (Black Bears), which was started by his father and then taken over by his brother (Bruna was offered the job, but wanted to keep working in design and illustration).

A huge and expensive catalogue of his Zwarte Beertjes work has been produced. Here are the front and back covers (click for huge, detailed versions).




Much more Bruniana (including most of the above) can be found in this excellent Flickr collection, and this other excellent Flickr collection. An interview with the man himself is online here.

14 comments:

Marc said...

I like the series look of those first 3 Maigrets. And have always felt the opposite for the various series looks HBJ has established over the years for their Maigrets, excepting when they were doing those B&W, mirror image covers: image on left reflected onto right almost like a Rosarch, which look great and sinister (almost more sinister than Maigret allows for, maybe). I don't often see those, though: you know who did those?

Will said...

Thanks for the intro to Brauna. I love these covers.

Ian Shimkoviak said...

how wonderful. All of them. such great, bold colors and shapes and illustrative styles.

Thank you!

Ben said...

Wow, I like this guy's stuff a lot! Great post, thanks.

Funny, I've always had Miffi down as a duller/more tasteful Western rip-off of Hello Kitty, but maybe in truth it's the other way around?

(It's not like I've ever bothered to go and research their respective dates of creation.)

JRSM said...

Marc: At least some of those HBJ Maigrets were credited to a Richard Mantel. Small amounts of extra info on him at http://www.harpers.org/subjects/RichardMantel and http://lpcoverlover.com/2008/06/13/richard-mantel-is-alive-and-well-in-new-york/

Will and Ian: Thanks!

Ben: I will do that research! First Miffy book came out in Holland in 1955, while the first Hello Kitty product (a vinyl coin purse) came out in Japan in 1974.

Matthew Adams said...

Dick Bruna has always been a hero of mine, for more than just his miffy books. Glad to see this post.

JRSM said...

We aim to please, Matthew. Cheers!

Georgie George said...

Hi-have added a link on my blog so I never ever lose your page again. You are welcome to reciprocate. Perhaps you could share your caustic criticisms on wedding cards...

Juliet said...

What a revelation! Thanks for all the pics and additional info - I'm off to explore the non-Miffy world of Bruna now!

JRSM said...

Thanks, Juliet--I wish I spoke Dutch so I could justify buying a whole heap of these books.

_lethe_ said...

My mum had a huge collection of Zwarte Beertjes, mainly Simenon and Havank. Personally I found the covers to be the best part!

JRSM said...

They are beautiful.

Tjeerd van Sas said...

Ben, like JRSM wrote: "Hello Kitty" is actually the rip-off. According to Dick Bruna, the company behind "Hello Kitty" acknowledged in private to him that Nijntje (Miffy) was their main inspiration.

Too bad clones often become more popular than the pioneers.

JRSM said...

A dangerous admission, but I guess it was off the record! Thanks for that info, Tjeerd.