On my recent trip to whirlwind tour of the Midwest (or at least Chicago, Grand Rapids, and Milwaukee) I’ve been hitting up all the used bookstores I can find, looking for book cover treasures, and finding some! My friend Brett took me to Argos Books in Grand Rapids last week, and I got a big stack of books, including this really fabulous 1937 edition of Up From Slavery, Booker T. Washington’s autobiography. The illustration caught my eye first, especially in relationship to the large collection of covers related to prisons I’ve features here in the past (see HERE). The emancipated figure on the cover is both beautiful and astoundingly heroic, arms outstretched, the light yellow background both capturing movement and creating a sense of deification. The arms frame and point to the title, illustrating the “up” as well as letting us know that Booker T. Washington holds the key to the exhalted experience shown.
There’s no attribution inside the book for the cover, but a small signature is visible for the artist—”Galdone.” Most likely this is the mark of Paul Galdone, a popular children’s book author who was born in Budapest but emigrated to New York in 1921. He actually studied at the Art Students League, a great popular, accessible, and independent art school still running in NYC. A quick search didn’t turn up any other politicized book covers, but I’m going to keep looking.
I believe this is the first book I’ve picked up on Sun Dial Press, but I’m definitely going to keep my out for more. Based on the advert on the back, they appear to be some sort of discount or book club publisher, which printed inexpensive editions of popular titles. The overall design is very modernist, with the amazing cover and a fabulous spine. The book itself is struck from set type, printed in Garden City, NY by the Country Life Press, with a deckled outer edge and a tipped in photograph of Washington. Overall it’s quite handsome, especially for a “cheap” reprint published while the country was still in the grips of the Great Depression!
(I apologize for the less than perfect images in this post, I’m on the road with nothing better than a crappy cell phone camera!)