Style Court

Eight Years of Textiles, History, Art, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes

7.22.2008

Cover Story

Over the weekend I picked up a 1940 edition of a Hemingway novel published by Scribner's Sons. Obviously it's a classic addition to any library, but I won't lie: the vintage linen cover sold me. The aesthetic appeal of books has been a reoccurring theme on this blog. (Remember Andy Spade's exhibition of covers?) So it seems like the most celebrated American book jacket should receive at least a small mention here.

Francis Cugat, the Spanish-born brother of bandleader Xavier Cugat, painted the Art Deco work that was used for the original 1925 cover of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Countless scholars have written about the thematic connections between Cugat's painting, with the famous haunting eyes, and Fitzgerald's story. (You were probably assigned a paper about it in high school.) And the dust jacket image is widely available in poster form too.

While teaching at the University of South Carolina, Charles Scribner III, a member of the legendary publishing family, wrote a fascinating article about the Gatsby cover.


The covers shown above are other examples of Scribners many alluring 20th century dust jackets. When a cover has graphic appeal -- and the book is something you actually want to read -- these vintage books bring instant flair to a room. Billy Baldwin said, "The best decoration in the world is a roomful of books."

To learn more about vintage and antique books, visit Fine Books & Collections.

Images above, except the magazine cover, are courtesy Princeton University Library.

21 comments:

Katie Lake said...

The Great Gatsby is one of my all time favorites! Right next to A Confederacy of Dunces!

Style Court said...

Hi Katie -- nice to hear from you. It's a fave of mine of course too!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Such a gorgeous cover! I find I love the artwork on new fiction releases the same way I used to love it on record album covers. Some are so beautiful and quite creative.

Chakra Pennywhistle said...

The Great Gatsby is such a favorite of mine!

I also love Kurt Vonnegut covers. I have a lot of his with torn edges and yellow pages. Don't know what it is but I like them that way. The art work is fabulous. The writing is too, of course.

Thank you for this post!

Style Court said...

Pamela Terry and Edward -- love your comparison to record album covers. Good point.

Style Court said...

Chakra -- thanks for stopping by. I know what you mean about torn edges. I think Scribners did Vonnegut covers too -- I'll have to look that up :)

The Antiques Diva said...

Style Court -
You've given me a great idea for my husband for Christmas! Now I'm on my own F.Scott shopping quest! My husband is convinced he was born in wrong era and that he and F. Scott could have had great fun together! I love the cover on Tender is the Night. I've seen a similar image as antique travel poster - now I just have to remember where! I'm smitten!
The Antiques Diva (TM)

Style Court said...

Antiques Diva -- Oh I'm so glad. That will be a great quest!

Style Court said...
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António Erre said...

Agree 100 per cent with B. Baldwin quotation. Books old, vintage, or new, bring instantly allure and enlightenment to any room.
Antonio

Elaine Biss said...

I love framing old book jackets. I have a bunch I need to frame... Lovely idea!

Mademoiselle Frou-Frou said...

i am LOVING the cover for Tender is the Night - it would look so pretty with the colors in my room!
xo

Pigtown-Design said...

Even though you can't judge a book by its cover, I find that I often do. I am more likely to pick up a book with an interesting cover than one without a cover at all.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Mrs. E. and I have a copies of those vintage travel posters, Antiques Diva. Search for Juan-Les-Pins or Antibes. It was around that area (at a beach called Le Garoupe) that the Murphy's hosted the Fitzgeralds and became the inspirations for the Divers.

These are beautiful examples of cover art. What a treat to read your post. (Xavier Cugat's brother, who knew?)

Style Court said...

E & E -- you're alway full of helpful info!

Paul Pincus said...

this was fascinating, courtney. cugat's brother! charo's brother-in-law?!?...too surreal.

love the baldwin quote. cheers.

Anonymous said...

What a timely post for me! I just finished rereading The Great Gatsby last night. I so enjoy your blog and have been reading for quite some time. Thank you!

Style Court said...

Oh great, perfect. Thanks so much for taking time to comment Anon!

Brilliant Asylum said...

Gorgeous, stylish, thoughtful covers. I re-read The Great Gatsby every few years (along with The Catcher in the Rye).

CountryMouse said...

When I saw this Great Gatsby cover it reminded me that we had a similar edition, maybe the same one, in my house when I was a child- I haven't seen it in years! I am definitely going to go digging for it in my parent's basement this weekend- thanks for jogging my memory, I love this illustration.

Style Court said...

Country Mouse -- check to see if it's a first edition :)