George Salter: Seven Categories of Book Jacket Design
Categories of Design
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In 1939 Salter looked back on seventeen years of experience in the field of book design and used his own work to deduce a typology of the book jacket. His reputation in the field was based largely on this specialized art form, which was also the book’s primary marketing tool. From his first-hand experience he distilled the distinguishing characteristics of the seven main jacket types in an essay entitled “Designing Book Jackets,” The Fifth Advertising and Publishing Production Yearbook 1939. The Reference Manual of the Graphic Arts (N. Y.: Colton Press, 1939): 48a-48h. The article not only presents an overview of design principles, but also offers useful advice on media and techniques to students and practitioners. Salter's book jacket categories, which are still valid today, are paraphrased below and illustrated with his own designs.


1. The formal typographical or hand-lettered jacket, which includes no design elements but lettering.


Hardy of Wessex

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Carl Jefferson Weber,
Hardy of Wessex. His Life and Literary Career,
Knopf, 1940.

Ralph Waldo Emerson,
Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson,
Columbia University Press 1939.

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2. The typographical or hand-lettered jacket that incorporates elements of ornamental design but avoids pictorial representation.

Meine Mutter

A Thing of Beauty

Das Slawenlied

|Cheng Tcheng,
Meine Mutter,
Berlin: Kiepenheuer, 1929

A. J. Cronin,
A Thing of Beauty,
Boston: Little, Brown, 1956
Franz Carl Weiskopf,
Das Slawenlied,
Berlin: Kiepenheuer, 1931

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3. The typographical, hand-lettered, or hand written jacket that intends to suggest the action of the book. In this case pictorial lettering evokes a mood.


Schreib Das Auf, Kisch!,

Nightmare of the Dark

Egon Erwin Kisch,
Schreib das auf, Kisch!,
Berlin: Erich Reiss, 1930

Edwin Silberstang,
Nightmare of the Dark,
N. Y.: Knopf, 1967

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4. A variation on type 3, in which ornamental or pictorial features are added to the primary typographical or lettered design.


Some Poems of Mallarme

Nervous People

I'll Be Seeing You

Stéphane Mallarmé,
Poems of Mallarmé,
N. Y.: Oxford University Press, 1937.

Mikhail Zoshchenko,
Nervous People and Other Satires,
N. Y.: Pantheon, 1963.
Henry M. Barry,
I'll Be Seeing You,
N. Y.: Knopf, 1952.

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5. The pictorial design suggests the atmosphere of a book by depicting specific details of its contents. Here the lettering supplements or explains the imagery, which is the artist’s own interpretation of the contents.


This Gun for Hire

Deep Valley

The Visitor

Graham Greene,
This Gun for Hire,
Garden City: Doubleday, Doran, 1936.
Dan Totheroth,
Deep Valley,
N. Y.: L. B. Fischer, 1942.
Carl Randau and Leane Zugsmith,
The Visitor,
N. Y.: Random House, 1944.

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6. The pictorial design that derives completely from the atmosphere of the book. Although an illustrative jacket, it does not need to draw on specific concrete or realistic scenes. This category conveys emotions rather than facts and is therefore the most suggestive and stylistically abstract. Nonetheless, it is necessary to read the text in order to design such a jacket.


The Violent Season

The Fifth Seal

Robert Goulet,
The Violent Season,
N. Y.: Braziller, 1962

Mark Aldanov,
The Fifth Seal,
N. Y.: Scribners, 1943.
Heimito von Doderer,
Every Man a Murderer,
N. Y.: Knopf, 1964

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7. The poster style jacket. With directness of concrete imagery, this category relates most closely in style and intention to commercial advertising art.


Ausflug Nach Mexiko

Fang and Claw

Leo Matthias,
Ausflug nach Mexiko,
Berlin: Verlag Die Schmiede, 1926 (binding).

Frank Buck & Ferrin Fraser,
Fang and Claw,
Simon and Schuster, 1934.

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  • Created By: Sara Kratzok '06 & Devyani Parameshwar '06
  • Maintained By: Author, Thomas S. Hansen, Dept. of German, Wellesley College
  • Date Created: June 24, 2004
  • Last Modified: October 28, 2004
  • Expires: August 2005