Lectures are in the Play House: 10.45 for morning members: 13.30 for afternoon members.

Completed – September 2019

Faber and Faber-90 years of Excellence in Cover and Design

By Toby Faber

Toby Faber, the grandson of the founder of the only remaining  independent  publishing house  Faber and Faber, enthralled us with anecdotes and personal amusing  insights during  his lecture on the history of the designs of Faber and Faber book covers since its foundation in 1925. After telling us about Board members such as T.S. Eliot and Richard De La   Mare he took us on a journey through the changing design covers from the muted colours  on Siegfried Sassoon’s “Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man” through to Damien Hirst’s cover on Gordon Burn’s “Happy Like Murderers”, depicting a smiley face on  a layer of earth.
 In the early years, the Ariel poems were an innovation as one was published by Faber and Faber annually with its own envelope so it could be sent as a Christmas card. Eventually, all were put together in a book displaying the skills of Sylvia Plath who, at one point, became a more popular writer than her husband Ted Hughes who was also retained by the company. In the 1930’s interesting art work on book covers by Barnet Freedman, such as Siegfried Sassoon’s “Memoirs of an Infantry Officer” helped launch the poet’s career. Rex Whistler was another artist who drew book covers and he always put the author’s picture on it such as can be seen on the front on the first edition of P.G. Wodehouse’s “Louder and Funnier”. Drake Bradshaw’s woodcuts were used for some book covers and his illustrations can still be seen on the London Underground posters. A member of the East London group, Phyllis Bray, designed for the covers of children’s books such as Alice Utley’s “A Traveller in Time”.
T.S. Eliot designed his own cover for his original book “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”, which he wrote for his god children. Working at Faber and Faber allowed him more time to devote to his own writing. Unfortunately for the company, he rejected Animal Farm as he thought it was too rude about Russia, Britain’s war-time ally, so they never published any of George Orwell’s novels! However, the collaboration with Andrew Lloyd Webber on his musical “Cats” based around Eliot’s poetry book has proved financially advantageous to the firm! Charles Monteith, a board member in 1953, recognised the genius of William Golding when he accepted “Lord of The Flies”, and he was also responsible for promoting Seamus Heaney’s work.
The war inevitably brought changes to publishing and this was when Berthold Wolpe joined Faber and Faber as the art director and a designer. He was brilliant and developed the Albertus typeface which can still be seen on London street signs and this typeface is known as the Faber typeface. Typography was used for cover design. By the 1980’s, the firm started an association with Pentagram who are responsible for the “ff” logo which has become synonymous with the publishing firm. Photoshop is used nowadays for cover designs.