Earliest pictorial jackets

Gordon Neavill aa3401 at wayne.edu
Mon Nov 27 21:40:32 EST 2006

I believe these jackets were the earliest examples of Modern Library pictorial jackets. In my old article, "The Modern Library Series: Format and Design" (Printing History, vol. 1, no. 1, 1979) I wrote the following:

"The first pictorial jacket appeared in March 1928 on Dmitri Merejkowski's The Romance of Leoardo da Vinci. Interest in the appearance of the work in an inexpensive edition was so great, and the advance sale so large, that Cerf and Klopfer decided to issue the book in a specially designed jacket of its own. They hoped that this would encourage booksellers to seek additional sales by displaying it separately from regular Modern Library stock. For display with the rest of the series it was also distributed in the uniform typographic jacket." (p. 33)

The above paragraph was based on information in the Random House archives; at that time I had never seen an example of an early pictorial jacket.

I have the following titles in the alternative pictorial jacket (not counting the Great Renaissance Romances Gift Box volumes):

Eugene O'Neill, The Emperor Jones; The Straw (jacket w. spring 1928 list, book with fall 1930 list), with back panel, spine design, front and back flaps identical to the pictorial Cyrano jacket.

Casanova, The Memoirs of Casanova (jacket w. spring 1929 list, 1st ML edition of book) with different back panel design listing 159 titles.

Thornton Wilder, The Cabala (jacket w. spring 1919 list, 1st ML edition of book with spring 1929 list at end of volume) with same back panel as Casanova.

With Ron's Cyrano de Bergerac, John's Nana, and the 3 Great Renaissance Romances volumes that gives us eight titles that appear to have been distributed in the alternative pictorial jackets described above. There are probably more waiting to be identified.

The back panel on O'Neill's Emperor Jones & The Straw and Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac was subsequently used for the volumes in the 3 Great Renaissance Romances gift box, which was released for the 1928 Christmas season. My guess is that the spring 1928 list was somehow coupled with these special jackets and wasn't updated.

I'd love to see a section of the web site depicting these alternative pictorial jackets (sans horizonal bands).

All this raises the question of which ML titles were the first to be issued *only* in pictorial jackets. I've never seen Casanova (fall 1929) or Henry James, Turn of the Screw & The Lesson of the Master (spring 1930) or Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (spring 1930) in a uniform typographic jacket. The illustrator all three of these pictorial jackets was Wuyts. These may be the first three. (Has anyone identified Wuyts's first name?) 


Gordon B. Neavill
Associate Professor
Library and Information Science Program
106 Kresge Library
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48202
313-577-0507 (tel); 313-577-7563 (fax)
aa3401 at wayne.edu

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