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Anchor Books

You did, however graduate from this menial work to cover design.  What was the first book cover that you illustrated and designed on your own?

   There was Lafcadio’s Adventures by Andre Gide; next there was kind of tacky little drawing of the Globe Theatre from the air, which I found someplace and copied for a book on Shakespeare by Mark van Doren.  I can’t remember what the third one was.  They used to go in threes.The National Post (Toronto), Wednesday, January 6, 1999. AP, p.232-233.

In April 1953, Anchor Books, a division of Doubleday, opened up a new market for paperbacks: the quality or academic book. The idea for Anchor Books was the brainchild of twenty-five year old Jason Epstein who convinced Doubleday of the market need for such books in paper editions particularly suited for college use. Epstein’s research so impressed the Doubleday executives that they created the line and made him editor. Anchor was well received from the start, reaching a mass audience through trade book outlets, campus bookstores, and other outlets. And Anchor had Edward Gorey doing many of the covers.

In his book Book Business, Publishing Past, Present and Future, Epstein wrote: “The prices ranged from 65 cents to $1.25, and I calculated that each title would break even at about twenty thousand copies.  Mass-market paperbacks sold in drugstores and newsstands were printed on inexpensive paper called ground wood that turned brown upon contact with light, and their covers were coated with a kind of cellophane that peeled away with use.  I decided to print Anchor titles on a more expensive and durable acid-free sheet that retained its whiteness somewhat longer and to print the covers on heavy stock in a matte finish.  The covers were designed by friends who were artists, of whom the most notable was Edward Gorey.  The distinctive format announced the intentions of the series unmistakably and had much to do with its success, though it was the titles themselves that identified Anchor books with the spirit of the new age.” Epstein, Jason. Book Business. Publishing Past Present and Future.  New York.  W.W. Norton & Company, 2001, p.64-65.

Image Books:  Making the World’s Finest Catholic Literature Available to All.

In 1954, Doubleday began publishing a series of classic and modern Catholic books by Catholic Saints, authors & leaders. The Art Department at Doubleday did the covers for Image Books and Gorey did a number of them.

Gorey as Book Designer

Gorey was often responsible for the total cover package, supplying the lettering, typography and design layouts. In addition to Gorey, other artists contributed the actual illustrations: Leonard Baskin, Milton Glaser, Philippe Julien, Antonio Frasconi, George Giusti, and even Andy Warhol; but Gorey designed the finished product lending a uniform appearance to the whole line.  Gorey worked in this capacity from 1953 until 1960, a period which roughly corresponds with Anchor’s first two hundred titles. About a fourth of these have line-drawn covers by Gorey.  He also designed various covers for Vintage, Capricorn, Compass and other publishers that followed Anchor’s lead.”  During this period, Diana Klemin, a book designer and illustrator, was director of the Art Department, and recruited many of the artists who worked with Gorey.  She worked as a book designer for Doubleday from 1945-1953; she was promoted to the position of Art Director in 1953 and retained that position until the mid-1980s

Curator’s Comments   

The Paperback Revolution

The quality paperback revolution was a godsend to students, particularly in literature, history, and the social sciences.  As a student at Loyola, I remember some of the Anchor titles that I bought for my studies; Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd, Kissinger’s Nuclear Weapons and American Foreign Policy, Kierkegaard’s Either/Or, and many others.  I read them while on my trek to Loyola on the Irving Park bus and the red line. Unfortunately, at that time I didn’t realize who Edward Gorey was and who he would become, so later, when I became a collector, I had to re-purchase the titles I read while in school.

The importance of Anchor Books, and other publishers who quickly followed with high quality series of their own, was demonstrated in 1964, when the Illini Union opened a paper back only book store with the support and help of President Henry,  Provost Lanier,  and Library Dean Downs, whose library staff assisted the book store in the selection of titles. The availability of inexpensive books helped the library by reducing the demand on the library’s reserve book rooms. 1,800 paperbacks were sold the first day and the crowds, mostly graduate students, including me, averaged around 3,000 visitors a day for the first three weeks of the school year. Daily Illini, July 23, 1964. 

Anchor Books are reasonably easy to collect because of their distinctive style and the fact that, in general, they were well produced, the titles well selected, and because of paper quality, readable today.  They can be found in used book stores and on the internet (ABE, Amazon, and Ebay).

-Thomas Michalak