Friday, February 16, 2007

John Craxton covers

John Craxton is a British painter of some note, but I doubt I would know his name at all were it not for the splendid book jackets he has created over the years for the works of his compatriot, the travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor.
These first covers are for the two books in which, many years after the fact, Leigh Fermor recollected the initial stages of the journey he had made, as a very young man in the 1930s, from Holland to Istanbul, largely on foot. Craxton's informal approach seems very apt for the story of a young, talented, largely self-taught Englishman vagabonding across Europe, encountering remnants of old ways that were soon to be lost forever. I'm guessing that the river depicted is the Danube.

The next two images illustrate a briefer book narrating a later trip to South America, and Leigh Fermor's only novel, which I still have never got around to reading.

A Time to Keep Silence is another shorter work, one that recounts Leigh Fermor's visits to monasteries in France and Cappadocia.

Finally, the paperback cover of A Time of Gifts below has a slightly different color palette than the John Murray hardcover. As I remember, the Viking hardcover edition in the US didn't use Craxton's art at all.

I don't have copies of the Penguin editions of Leigh Fermor's two books on Greece, Mani and Roumeli, or his book on the Caribbean, The Traveller's Tree, but I think at least some printings of those books had Craxton art as well. The Harper hardcover editions I own don't, although Roumeli has a map of Greece drawn in his hand on the endpapers.

The preponderance of blue in these covers is likely no accident; both Craxton and Leigh Fermor have lived in Greece for much of their lives. They are very old men now, and I don't know how likely it is that the concluding volume of Leigh Fermor's account of his journey to Constantinople will ever be published. If it is, though, I hope John Craxton will still be around to do the cover.

Postcript (2013): John Craxton died in 2009, Patrick Leigh Fermor on June 10, 2011. The narrative of the last leg of the journey was never completed, but portions left among Leigh Fermor's papers are being published, by John Murray in the UK this year, and by New York Review Books in the US in 2014, as The Broken Road. The Murray cover keeps to the spirit of Craxton's work.

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