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72: B. Traven, part IX

August 22, 2011

My friend “Ret” has sent me some great covers a couple times now. Originally a couple of B. Traven ones, and now a lot more (plus some Angela Davis covers I’ll be featuring in the near future). A couple months back Ret sent me a great folder of a dozen Traven covers I hadn’t previously featured, and that’s what I’m going to share today. This will actually be the 9th week I’ve focused on Traven, and with these 11 covers, a total of 159 Traven editions! You can check out all the past covers HERE.
To start out, to the right is an interesting 1971 Penguin edition of March to Caobaland (the same as March to the Monteria, but according to Ret, an earlier translation). It’s a great cover, and feels way ahead of it’s time, a real slick post-modern mix of fonts, classic design elements, and contrasting color scheme. It has none of the human hand typical of late 60s/early 70s eclectic design (a la PushPin), so seems more late 80s or early 90s.
Continuing with the Jungle Novels, here are three British Allison & Busby editions, Trozas (1994), General from the Jungle (1985), and March to the Monteria (1982), respectively. The Allison & Busby covers almost all feature reproductions of details of Mexican murals with relatively neutral type treatment, and even within that, most feature Diego Rivera images (as the March to the Monteria, and I believe the Trozas cover, do). The General from the Jungle cover actually features an image from David Alfaro Siqueiros, I believe the only Traven/Siqueiros cover I have seen. A Clemente Orozco image was used on the cover of an Allison & Busby cover of Rebellion of the Hanged I posted way back in Week 17.
Next are some covers for other Traven novels. For some reason The Cotton Pickers seems to be the novel least likely to be illustrated by imagery from the big three Mexican muralists. This 1983 edition by Allison & Busby, and the illustration is a slight reworking of the image on one of the early hardbacks I featured in Week 18. It has a more ’80s jazz feel (which is unfortunate), but otherwise it is a pretty faithful reproduction. Below that is another surprising Penguin cover for The Bridge in the Jungle (1975). Penguin was really churning out interesting book covers in the 60s and 70s, and this is no exception. Block Berthold type grounds the cover and even references Traven’s German origins, and the clean border outline gives the entire cover a contained and classic feel, but the image is playful and even a bit child-like, a really nice contrast to the control in the other elements. Next is a 1974 Panther edition of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which fits right in with the Panther design style used in their 70s edition of The Death Ship (HERE). A clean half-tone patterned illustration derived from a photograph. Italicized bold sans serif type adds action and movement to the design.


Then we’ve got two covers of short story collections. The Night Visitor is the mow common of the two, and fits in the mid-70s Traven house-style of the publisher Hill & Wang. Tall, bold serifed type sits above a monotone expressive watercolor illustration. This illustration is quite nice, a dark and mysterious figure wrapped in a patterned head-dress, and in content is nothing like any of the other Night Visitor covers I have seen (Week 19). Next to that is a rare pamphlet containing the Traven story Assemblyline, which I think was published by the New England Free Press in 1977. The cover is a great reworking of high Mexican modernism, and the illustration looks like it could be a Diego Rivera, although it might also be a nice copy inspired by his drawing style.

To round it out, a couple Traven biographies. To the left, Karl Guthke’s B. Traven (Lawrence Hill, 1991), which is simple, clean, and uneventful. Next to that is another edition of Will Wyatt’s The Secret of the Sierra Madre (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985), and the third I’ve posted here on the blog so far. The cover photo captures the elusiveness of Traven, but otherwise there is little worth saying about it.


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