Friday, January 4, 2013

Lost Cover Art: Bantam's Hesse

Astute readers may recognize my Blogger avatar as being from the cover of a 1970s-era paperback edition of Hermann Hesse's Glass Bead Game.  The editions of nearly all of Hesse's books that I own are from this time, when the English translations were published by Bantam Books in the US.  Fresh from Hesse's rediscovery by 1960s hippie culture, the back covers of this time gush about how "The Hesse Phenomenon" appeals both to the underground and to the establishment, man!   (Well, without the "man.")  :-)

The art on the front covers of these Bantam paperbacks has always intrigued me.  They were usually done up in a lush, Romantic style, which contrasted with their stark white backgrounds.  The images ran the gamut from the dull and dreamy to the surreal and freaky, but there was a unity of style that (to me) suggested they were all done by one artist.  For fun, I rounded up as many of them as I could find via Google Images and assembled them into a collage...

Click for bigger JPG image
The bigger JPG image isn't that much bigger, so I also put a higher-resolution PDF version on Google Docs, HERE.

The 15 images are in as close to chronological order as I could figure, with three multi-decade anthologies all put on the bottom left.  In any case, the top two rows are in exactly the order that Hesse published them, so it was totally not my doing to artfully arrange the oddball blue-covered version of Siddhartha right in the center!  :-)

Out of the 6 or 7 of these that I've actually read, it's interesting how my perceptions of the books are flavored by these images.  The Glass Bead Game (Magister Ludi), for example, can be pretty dry in places, but those floating beads and the colorful scene behind Hatty McMustache, there, help fuel the imagination.  This seems related to an ongoing discussion in the RPG blogosphere about art in game books, too... Is it just extraneous fluff, or does it serve to get those creative juices flowing?  A little bit of quality is worth tons of page-padding quantity.

But the big question is: Who is the artist (or artists)?  I wish I knew!  The books themselves don't give any attributions for the cover art.  I did find a web page that claims the artist for the covers of Demian, Beneath the Wheel, and Narcissus & Goldmund was someone named William Edwards.  However, such a common name brings up many hits that makes it difficult to learn more.  My two favorites -- Journey to the East and The Glass Bead Game -- do appear different enough from those other three that they could conceivably be from a different artist.  If anyone reading this has additional information, please comment or contact me.  I'd love to give proper attribution for my own avatar!  :-)

19 comments:

  1. Images influence our perceptions far more than we realize? When I first came upon Servitor Ludi, I subconsciously assumed you were a redhead. Then you mentioned a redhead in one of the early posts I read and had that bias/assumption 'confirmed.'

    I find myself wanting to 'think' more 'in pictures,' these days. Words, lifelong bosom buddies, have suddenly become aliens.

    Even that isn't quite right but ... whatever.

    Extraordinary cover art, Cyg. Nice collage.

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    1. I'm sure I've used the phrase "red-headed stepchild," but probably not in the best of connotations. Apologies to all gingers out there! :-)

      We all need a break from words now and again.

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  2. Wow! I am also just trying to track down this artist. Thanks for your work--I'll see what I can find out and let you know.
    --David Dodd
    Librarian
    Sonoma County Library, California

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    1. Flickr page (http://www.flickr.com/photos/56781833@N06/8108773371/) showing several of these covers has this citation:

      Hermann Hesse - Demian
      Bantam Books T7734, 1974
      Cover Artist: William Edwards

      Cover artist source: Thomas L. Bonn - Undercover: An Illustrated History of American Mass Market Paperbacks Plate 27a

      My library doesn't own this book, but it looks like an accurate citation. Now to try to find more about that artist.

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    2. Hello, a friend just sent me a link to you; the artist is my father, William A. Edwards, of CT; and I actually posed for a few of these (family members are cheap models :-);
      he did many covers for Bantam.

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    3. defythemachin3: I've always admired your father's work and consider him to be one of the best illustrators I've ever come across. I use his work as examples in the illustration classes I teach, as well. I'd love to learn more about your father and his work. I'd love to talk with you, if you would be so kind as to reply to me.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Wow... thanks for the replies, everyone. I hope I've been able to help people learn more about the great work of Mr. Edwards.

    defythemachin3: If you and/or your father would ever consider collecting nice reproductions of these covers -- and the untold stories behind them -- into a book, I'm sure there would be an audience for it.

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    1. that's a nice idea, my dad is still alive, (turns 89 Sat), I don't know how much he remembers, but I'm going to think about that. unfortunately, years ago, his agent lost his proofs, and he has very few examples of his work, so that might be the hard part. I know that Bantam had his work hanging on the walls, and I wonder what happened to those paintings. If you like, I'll try to post some other covers.
      and thank you for your kind words, (you could 'tell a book' by his cover, he always read the books first)

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    2. Wow, what a fun string of comments to stumble upon while trying to identify the artist of the Hesse covers. I recently read "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" and the cover also resembles his work some. You can definitely tell he actually read the books and got accurate impressions of the characters. It's spooky how much life he imbues them with. Hope all is well!

      http://pictures.abebooks.com/BOOKABYSS/10222949265.jpg

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    3. Thanks! That cover is so similar... it must have been Edwards, too.

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  5. Hey defythemachine3,

    I just met your father. I was interviewing him as part of my Montessori Secondary Teacher Education training in CT. I am going to see him again on Friday to finish up the project. I was trying to find and or confirm that I had accurately found a sample or samples of his artwork in order to possibly create something for him as a thank-you for participating in the project. I, too am an illustrator so I want to be sure I have found samples of his work or even find more so I could get a feel for his style of illustration to pay homage to his work. Any help or links to illustration by your father would be greatly appreciated.

    Sincerely,
    MonkeyBoy

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    1. Thanks for the update, MonkeyBoy. It makes me happy to hear that Mr. Edwards is still out there inspiring the next generation of artists. Please feel free to leave any other thoughts, or links to your related work, here.

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  6. Was there every any further followup with the artist? Would love to know. Thanks!

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    1. Nothing that I've heard. Pretty much all communication that I've seen has been in this comment section. Anyone else, please feel free to chime in, no matter when you might happen to visit again.

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    2. I have a variant cover of Siddartha, it is black with a painting of a young man sitting under a tree. Trying to find any kind of info about it, but can't even find another picture of my edition online.

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    3. Interesting! Is it a Bantam paperback, of a similar style as the ones pictured in this post? If so, I'd be curious to see a picture of it. If you then post it online, it would help future searchers. :-)

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  7. Many of these covers were painted in my childhood home in Maine. The artist was living with my mother at the time. I believe that his daughter Beth also posed for some of these paintings. I stumbled across this thread because I was curious about what happened to this person who I lived with for several years as a child.

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    1. It's fascinating to see how the internet can bring together people who were associated with this artist over the years. I wonder what's become of those original paintings.

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