By Nina J P Evans

Monday, May 13, 2013

Fitzgerald Dust Jackets

This is a collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first edition books, purchased by Matthew Bruccoli an American Professor of English at the University of South Carolina. At his first attempt to purchase at a charity auction almost completely failed, there were too many other bidders. It was during a break that he noticed Scottie Fitzerald and got taking with her. When the next auction round started he felt a little more determined at bidding. Turning around to see who he was bidding against, he was very surprised to see that it was Scottie Fitzerald. He immediately withdrew from bidding, only to find moments later the book, Taps at Reveille handed to him. Bruccoli remembers as if it was yesterday, “She told me later that I looked so disappointed about losing out on the other books that she wanted to cheer me up. Later, I learned that she did impulsive things like that all the time. She took it as her responsibility to make people happy.” She had bought the book as a gift for him! After this the two became firm friends and collaborated, publishing a number of essays, conversational pieces and biography A Brief Life of Fitzgerald. 

Though, all the books are first editions, they are far from immaculate. However, they are quite remarkable; the books have been personally inscribed by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Since Bruccoli’s passing the collection has been kindly donated to the University of Carolina, and is second only to the F. Scott Fitzgerald collection at Princeton University Library.

Matthew Bruccoli’s first introduction to Fitzerald’s writings was by listening to a radio play a dramatisation of The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, whilst riding in the back of his parents’ Dodge. Furthermore, it inspired a love of books, he went on to be a student at Yale University. “The wit and warmth of his prose appeal to me as much today as they did when I first began reading it,” he said. “But I’m also disturbed by the popular image of Fitzgerald that obscures the real man.” This collection costs thousands of dollars, but is now valued at nearly $2 million. Since his passing the collection has been kindly donated to the University of Carolina, as to benefit to all the students.
The earliest first edition book jacket This Side of Paradise, 1920 became, the most popular book of the year. The unfinished novel The Last Tycoon, published in 1941 was completed by a close friend. From a Graphic design perspective there are several interesting things to note about these book jackets, approved at the time by both Fitzgerald, and Charles Scribner’s Sons Publishers New York. Firstly, the typographic treatments of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s authors credit, the letting on most jackets is designed to fit with the title font of the book, the title always taking precedence with colour, and font size. All bar the first three book jackets, have his name in different font settings and styles. The first three novels published are illustrated by W. E Hill, are quiet formulaic as a set with a monochromic style. There’s a font consistency between all three with pencil photorealistic drawings of the characters poised as if on a movie set. I think that the cover illustration on This Side of Paradise and The beautiful and the Dammed looks especially like himself and Zelda. The body language on these covers is quite provoking if I am correct by the likenesses.

From 1922 with Tales of the Jazz Age a new illustrator John Held was commissioned. The typographic treatment is hand rendered, rather than a typeset. The cover image depicts a scene of dancers in a characterised style in contrast to the older covers with photorealist drawings. He approached the cover of The Vegetable with the same freehand font treatment and illustrative style using a brilliant red background. Therein for each new book jacket a new illustrator was commissioned. As a result, the novels individually stand apart, yet as a collection of works by the same author they fit together well; by strong colour association considered, as vintage colours today. The style is often monochromatic with either red, yellow, orange or green. In the case of Tender is the Night, it’s all of those colours, but in simple blocks of colour. Unfortunately not credited to the illustrator; I think that it's a stunning illustrated design. 

Additionally, apart from W. E Hill’s composed illustrations, there is a sense of motion with the others that echoes F. Scott Fitzgerald’s style of prose. There’s continuous movement throughout the text. This translates visually within the elements of design: dancing, fireworks, rippling water and large romantic italics. The iconic The Great Gatsby’s cover art is illustrated by a little known Spanish artist Francis Cugat, created the piece as Fitzgerald was writing the final drafts of the novel. The heroines discombobulated head, melting into cobalt night sky; her irises transfigured into reclining nudes, glowing like car headlights. There’s an alluring sadness with streaming from one eye is a green luminescent tear; impressed him so much that he decried the visual imagery in his novel. It is even suggested that the Dr. T. J. Eckleburg advertising billboard was added later too (see link below). Scribner (his publisher) quotes the author as saying, “For Christ’s sake, don’t give anyone that jacket you’re saving for me. I’ve written it into the book.” This is the first I’ve heard of such a thing—A fantastic collaboration between author and illustrator. The result is of course is unsurpassable.  

This Side of Paradise (1920)
 Dust Jacket Illustration by W. E. Hill
Flappers and Philosophers (1920) 
Dust Jacket Illustration by W. E. Hill
The Beautiful and Damned (1922)
 Dust Jacket Illustration by W. E. Hill
Tales of the Jazz Age (1922)
 Dust Jacket Illustration by John Held, Jr.
The Vegetable; or, From President to Postman (1923)
 Dust Jacket Illustration by John Held, Jr
 Gatsby (1925)
 Dust Jacket Illustration by Francis Cugat
 All the Sad Young Men (1926)
 Dust Jacket Illustration by Cleonike Damianakes
 Tender is the Night (1934) 
Dust Jacket Illustration unsigned
 Taps at Reveille (1935) 
Dust Jacket Illustration by Doris Speigel
The Last Tycoon (1941)
Save Me the Waltz (1932) 
by Zelda Fitzgerald
Dust Jacket Illustration by Cleonike Damianak

The Romantic Egoists (1974), front cover

The Romantic Egoists (1974), back cover

F. Scott Fitzgerald Collection, by Kathy Dowell.
 Courtesy of Ex Libris, an annual publication of the Division of Libraries and Information Systems of the University of South Carolina, 1994. Copyright 1996, the Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina.

Francis Cugat’s jacket for The Great Gatsby

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