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12: New World Paperbacks, part I

June 28, 2010

The next couple weeks entries will be focused on the covers of New World Paperbacks, which was an imprint of the Communist Party, USA’s main publishing house International Publishers. I know that New World was started in the early 1960s in order to make inexpensive copies of Marxist “classics” (i.e. Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc.) available to a wide audience. It seems that by the early 1970s, it had become the place where the CP published what it perceived of as “popular” titles, including those about race and gender in the US and national liberation struggles abroad. Many of the covers are surprisingly hip for the Communist Party, riffing off of both historical context of the book and relatively current design trends at the time (psychedelia, deco, etc.). For example, the cover “A Dangerous Scot” uses a type treatment that dates it to an early 20th century americana, but the design element floating in the center of the page is so odd that it makes the whole thing seem contemporary. Maybe not surprisingly for the CP, none of the books I have attribute a designer for the cover, or a printer for the book—yet most subject the reader to a turgid intro by CP leader Gus Hall, which clearly lets us know which part of the labor process of book production is most important! It appears as if many of the New World titles are still available from International Publishers, but New World itself doesn’t have a website or any unique identity, and appears to have been absorbed by the larger publishing identity sometime in the 1980s. Enjoy the covers!

It appears as if at some point the CP decided to update the style of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s prison autobiography: on the left is the original printing, on the right is the version available now. I guess someone, somewhere, decided that proto-psychedelic color clouds and an unflattering photo of Flynn late in life couldn’t sell books in the fast-paced publishing industry of today!

And they were smart enough to let the awesome photo of Tijerina on this cover speak for itself:

Anti-capitalismCulture & MediaLabor

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