Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Peter Blake's 1950s Penguins

In another of Penguin's apparently never-ending anniversary celebrations, the UK arm is releasing the Penguin Decades in April: "Five seminal novels from each decade from the 1950s to 1980s inclusive, with cover artwork by high-profile artists and designers." Given that this is for their 75th anniversary, the number of books and the timespan seems fairly arbitrary, but that doesn't really matter.

As far as I can tell, each the covers of the books for each decade will be era-appropriate. To this end, they've commissioned famous pop artist Peter Blake to do the covers for the 1950s books (Scenes from Provincial Life by William Cooper, Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis,  From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming, Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse, and Memento Mori by Muriel Spark). I've found all the covers but the Waterhouse, so here they are.


 
 
 


Whatever Billy Liar ends up looking like, it is about time it had a facelift. The current Penguin edition (and the copy I have) is incredibly '80s-looking...

 


..though I am partial to these two older Penguin editions...


 

I'll put up the covers to the other decades as I get hold of them.

8 comments:

Tulkinghorn said...

British nostalgists will recognize the source for the last "Billy Liar" cover:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lenton_sands/2397583244/

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

I love that last one. Beautiful.

Deb said...

I love these Penguin covers, but in a way, Penguin reminds me of the "Star Wars" franchise--so much of it is just recycling what has come before.

Deb said...

I should make myself clearer: It seems that Penguin frequently releases commemorations of old material, repurposed and repackaged, similar to the way George Lucas is always tinkering with previous releases of "Star Wars."

Caffeine--I need caffeine before I start posting in the morning!

Brian Busby said...

Couldn't agree more that the current Billy Liar is "incredibly '80s-looking". Here Billy looks like a member of ABC (or possibly Spandau Ballet).

JRSM said...

Tulkinghorn: Thanks for the link--I'd assumed it was a pack of cards, so you cleared that up.

Christy: Ditto!

Deb: I know what you mean, but as long as they don't mess with the text! My only complaint is that the new editions are almost always more beautiful than the ones I own.

Brian: You can hear the synths, can't you?

Even said...

I hate to be the naysayer of the group, but all (except possibly the second to last) of these covers are over-thought, uber-designed crap. I've always felt that a decent cover should stand on its own as a work of art and I don't think any of these (again, except for possibly the last one--though it seems like a Thurber rip-off) accomplish that. If I knew more about "Billy Liar" I might better understand what an old pack of cigarettes has to do with the story, but then again that's the point, isn't it? If you need to know something about the book to understand the point of the cover, then the cover needs a crutch.

JRSM said...

"If you need to know something about the book to understand the point of the cover, then the cover needs a crutch."

I'm not sure that I agree, as long as the cover is eye-catching or otherwise beautiful enough to get you to pick up or find out more about the book. Of course, if you think the cover's a horrible mess, then it has failed.