Book Jackets with Original Artwork

Charles Skaggs wrote that when he arrived in New York City in 1945, it seemed to him “that two of every three trade book jackets used calligraphy to some extent—even if only to display the title and author.” The Skaggs Collection contains hundreds of original book jackets, preserved in virtually pristine condition. Some are available online here to accompany this exhibition. There is also some original artwork by Skaggs for these jackets, a selection of which is shown here.

Great Essays - original design

Great Essays

Houston Peterson, ed. New York: Washington Square Press, 1960

Charles Skaggs designed many books and bindings for Wasington Square Press. Here are two designs for the same title: one as original art (l) and one in printed form on the paperback cover (r).

Great Essays - published cover

A History of the Modern World - published jacket

A History of the Modern World

R. R. Palmer 
New York: Alfred A Knopf, c. 1950

Palmer’s world history was printed in a number of editions from 1950 until the 1970s. A book jacket for this title is shown here along with a sheet of original lettering by Skaggs. Skaggs provided all the words used on the book jacket, but wrote them so they fit on the page; of course, they were photographed and rearranged for use on the printed book jacket. The use of lettering or calligraphy on book jackets in the 1940s through the 1960s was quite common, sometimes as the only lettering and sometimes in combination with printed typefaces.

A History of the Modern World - original lettering

The Black Prince - original design

The Black Prince and Other Stories

Shirley Ann Grau
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1954

This original drawing and lettering (left) by Skaggs is marked by him on the back “Knopf  Feb, 54 (NOT USED)”. However, the published book jacket (below), with author portrait, states: “Jacket, typography, and binding design by Charles E. Skaggs.”

The Black Prince - published jacket

Abraham Lincoln

Benjamin P. Thomas
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1953

Here is the finished printed book jacket as well as two original designs by Skaggs for this biography of Lincoln. Skaggs has written on the back of the two designs: “Alternate sketch NOT used.”

Abraham Lincoln - publihed jacket
Abraham Lincoln - original design Abraham Lincoln - original design

Return to Skaggs Exhibition home | Next Case: William A. Dwiggins

Terms of Use

Need Help?  Ask a Librarian! Smith College Libraries Smith College Home Smith College Directory Smith College Moodle Course Management System Smith College Email Workday Smith College Libraries on Facebook