Charles Skaggs Book Jacket Collection
Skaggs, born in 1917, grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. While in
high school he apprenticed in an art studio, where he learned the
fundamentals of printing processes. At the age of nineteen, he went
to Chicago and soon made his mark designing advertising art, packaging,
and posters. In Chicago he was introduced to the art of book design
by Chicago bibliophiles, including Raymond DaBoll, who showed him
the work of William Addison Dwiggins.
to New York City in 1945 and quickly established himself as a
freelance book jacket designer. He worked on books and jackets
for the Limited Editions Club and for the publisher Alfred A.
Knopf. Skaggs career eventually changed from being an independent
designer to working as art director for a variety of publishing
houses—Silver, Burdette and Company, Washington Square Press (Simon
& Schuster), Harper & Row’s college book division, and
lastly, the trade book division of Macmillan Publishing Company.
In 1969 he left Macmillan and returned to Kentucky. He continued
to work as a freelance designer for New York firms and for the
University of Kentucky. Skaggs moved to Colorado in 1981, and
later to his current home in Washington state.
The collection of book jackets on this website is a selection
of digitized versions of book jackets designed by Charles Skaggs
throughout his career. The selection available here is only part
of the Mortimer Rare Book Room's collection, and is designed to
accompany the exhibition of Skaggs' work, which can be seen here.
to Skaggs, throughout the 1940s and 1950s the design of trade book
jackets was the most consistent and lucrative outlet for calligraphers.
The standard rate for a lettered jacket in 1946 was $75.00. By 1970,
with designs likely to be more typographic than calligraphic, the
rate was between $200.00 and $300.00 per jacket. This increase in
payment was not due to inflation alone, but also the increased status
of designers “as publishers became more aware of the importance
of visual appeal in promoting sales.”
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