I often carry a book with me to read on the metro. Last week I finished up a book so as I was running out the door on Monday morning I picked up another book that was sitting in the collection on my desk of "started but not finished reads." It is a good collection. The book I picked up was 79 Short Essays on Design by Michael Bierut. This is a great book for short trips. Each chapter is only 3-4 pages.

Yesterday, on my way to the office, I opened up to read chapter 53. The chapter was The Unbearable Lightness of Fred Marcellino. This chapter was a short essay about the book cover design of Fred Marcellino. Before reading this chapter, like many in this book, I knew nothing or very little about the subject matter because most of it happened before I knew what graphic design was.

In today's internet world with websites, blogs and twitter it is very easy to see what other book designers are doing right now. The Book Cover Archive and other sites collect, categorize and explore newer covers. But what about the designers of the past? After reading the essay I realized I knew very little, other than a little about Alvin Lustig, when it came to book cover design history. Other than By Its Cover, a small collection of modern book covers, the history of book designers and their work is quite limited.

When I got to the office, the first thing I wanted to do was look up Fred Marcellino's covers to see what he created for nearly two decades. Of course most of his designs and illustrations were done just as the computer was being invented and so even today its hard to find many of his original 40 covers a year that he created on the web.

There are many I couldn't find, like my favorite Alive and Dead in Indiana, but below are a few I added to my inspiration collection. I thought I would share what I found.

Some of Fred Marcellino's book cover designs have been redesigned. Henry Sene Yee redesigned The Bonfire of the Vanities in 2008 and Roberto De Vicq De Cumptich redesigned The Unbearable Lightness of Being in 2004.

Fred Marcellino moved from book cover design to writing and illustrating children's book and won many awards for his work before he died in 2001.

If you have additional information or corrections, please let me know.

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  1. Fred WAS book jacket design when I started at Pantheon Books in the 80s. I love the mood of his work. So under recognized. Thanks for posting this Arthur.

  2. Thanks for the recognition of Fred's work. I'm Jean, his wife. Unfortunately, your post shows some covers that Fred didn't do, that is he DID them, but not the editions you show here. His version of "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" is not the blue one at the bottom, but the one above it. His original, first edition cover for "Bonfire of the Vanities" is the one with buildings being reflected in a glass coffee table, not the one under it. And the very first image is not his, but the one under it is, with the wall. Please see http://www.facebook.com/fredmarcellino and http://www.pulcinellapress.com

  3. Aha! Upon re-reading your post, Arthur, I see that you do credit two of the covers by other designers, but that first one, "Handmaid's Tale," appears to be uncredited. He certainly didn't do that first jacket.

  4. Hi Arthur. Late to the post, but do you have a copy of Covers & Jackets! It’s a fantastic resource of book cover design (and magazine covers) but there are some of Fred Marcellino’s covers in the book that are just amazing. Along with the usual suspects, there are some others lesser-knowns now: Steven Brower, Krystyna Skalski, Jeffrey Fisher, Daniel Pelavin, Wendell Minor, James Victore. --Kat Lynch


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