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This Just In: Book Jackets by Philip Grushkin

Original art and mechanicals from the prolific cover designer provides insight into mid-20th-century lettering and pasteup process.

Philip Grushkin, jacket for “The Disappearance”
Philip Grushkin, jacket for The Disappearance, Rinehart & Company, New York, 1951. Left: Final jacket. Right: Original artwork.

Philip Grushkin was a tour de force in the publishing world. Before launching his prolific career, Grushkin studied under master book jacket designer George Salter. Working largely during the 1940s–80s, he designed book jackets for publishers like Random House and Alfred A. Knopf. He later became an art director, designing hundreds of books for Abrams Art Books.

Letterform Archive acquired a modest portion of Gruskin’s archives in the fall of 2016, complete with original art and mechanicals for several of his dust jacket designs. The collection is a great source of education and inspiration for both students and researchers. Showing final pieces, while highlighting edits and production notes in the process pieces is an excellent tool for explaining pre-digital printing processes to aspiring graphic designers.

Philip Grushkin, jacket designs for Fresh Wind Blowing, 1948; Bridgehead: The Drama of Israel, 1957; and Money Money Money, 1957.

Some of the dust jackets employ abstract patterns while others are strictly illustrative, but each dominantly features the book’s title in Grushkin’s hand lettering. A favorite detail of this collection among Archive staffers is Grushkin’s treatment of publishing house logos — especially the Random House mark on Uli Beigel’s Victoria at Night and Other Stories. He often reworked logos to match the illustration or brush style of the jacket. Victoria at Night is a perfect example of his ability to retain the recognizable, iconic nature of a mark in his designs.

Philip Grushkin, jacket for “Victoria at Night and Other Stories”
Philip Grushkin, jacket for Victoria at Night and Other Stories, Random House, New York, 1958.
Left: Final jacket. Right: Original artwork and separation instructions.

We are honored to include Grushkin’s work in our growing collection of process materials from significant 20th-century lettering artists. As fewer and fewer artists hold onto their sketches, proofs, and mechanicals, our commitment to saving these materials is increasingly important. A selection of this Grushkin collection will be on display later this month at the Letrástica Festival in Guadalaraja, and the material will always be available to our researchers.

Kate Long, Assistant Librarian