Charles Skaggs Book Jacket Collection

Charles 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.
Skaggs moved 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.
For more
information, read
From Alphabets to Books,
a biography
of Skaggs by
Kimberly Marlowe.

Web Collection

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.

Early work







According 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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