Monday, October 27, 2008

Guy Fleming jackets

Who was, or is, Guy Fleming? He's not mentioned in Ned Drew and Paul Sternberger's By Its Cover: Modern American Book Cover Design, nor does there appear to be a tribute site or any other information of significance on the web. I've found a scattering of listings for books that credit him as a designer or illustrator, but other than that all I know is that between 1970 and 1979 he designed this quartet of jackets for Harper & Row (back when there was still a Harper & Row and not whatever its pathetic Rupert Murdoch-owned successor is called these days). (See comments section for an update.)

For most readers of my generation, the more familiar cover for One Hundred Years of Solitude was the old Avon or Bard version, which at least in my copy does not credit the designer. Fleming's cover is quite good, though; notice the boat being enveloped by the jungle, which is of course straight out of the book. The bottom pair of jackets are certainly eye-catching (which is what a book jacket needs to be, after all) but the one for Eréndira is maybe a little too busy.

The best of the lot in my opinion is the cover for The Autumn of the Patriarch. The detailing is actually quite intricate, but the overall layout is very simple and the lettering stands out effectively against the dark background. (I assume, without knowing, that the lettering was done by hand.) Notice that the building and the backlit window are a few degrees off perpendicular, which gives the impression that the whole thing is sinking.

My copy was purchased in 1976 in the old Barnes & Noble Sale Annex at 5th Avenue and 18th Street, opposite the flagship store that still operates. At the time, the store had a policy (fairly unheard of back then) of discounting the New York Times bestseller list 40%. I waited until the book hit the list, and then plunked down my $6.00. Compared to One Hundred Years of Solitude, though, it was a bit of a laborious read, and I've never re-read it.

Update: In the course of the '70s Fleming apparently created the jackets for at least two other García Márquez books, Leaf Storm and No One Writes to the Colonel. I haven't found a usable image of the latter yet, but here is Leaf Storm:


Ana said...

We must be at the same age or maybe you're a little older than I am.
I love "The Autumn of the Patriarch" and read it in Portuguese maybe in 1980. I loved it but this is the only Garcia Marques's book that I could read.
Don't hate me. I love Sabato, Cortázar, Borges and so many others.

Michael N. Fried said...

Guy Fleming was an old friend of my father's. They met in the US Army in 1953 and remained in touch until Guy's death about four years ago. Guy was quite a character. My favorite story about Guy has to do with his dealings with the army chaplain. Reading over the religious affiliations the soldiers wrote down on cards, the chaplain stopped at Guy's card and shouted, "Fleming, I want to see you!" He turned to Guy and demanded, "What on earth [I think he might have referred to a certain subterranean place] is a transcendental idealist?!" Guy then proceeded to explain what it meant and concluded by saying, "You know something, I think I really AM a transcendental idealist!"
If I am not mistaken, Guy studied at Yale. But whatever the case, Guy was extremely intelligent and well-read, and, of course, he was a superb artist and illustrator (I used to have in my room a magnificent watercolor he made). He made his mark, however, as a book designer. He was probably the first book designer to add a note in the back matter about the design: the font used and its history, the layout, and so on. He worked most of his years for Knopf, though he also worked for other companies. I have, for example, Harper Torchbook edition of Kant's Metaphysics of Morals whose cover Guy designed.

Chris Kearin said...


Thanks so much for that information. I'll keep an eye out for his work for Knopf.

Brendan Beirne said...

One of my favorite covers ever is the FSG edition of Play it as it Lays by Joan Didion.

The colors get washed out in this online version, but it is stunning in person.

Brendan Beirne

Michael Leddy said...

Yale must be right: the New York Times has a 1956 wedding announcement for a Guy Fleming and a Ruth Foster. The Guy Fleming in question was then attending the Yale School of Graphic Arts. I got curious about Fleming’s work after noticing a beautiful frontispiece, a collage of letters and punctuation marks, in an old copy of The Practical Stylist. And thus found my way here.

Chris Kearin said...


Thanks. For those who may be interested, here's a link to Michael's post on The Practical Stylist:

There are some additional Guy Fleming links there as well.

Peter said...

I think Guy Fleming did the cover of The Divine Milieu by Teilhard de Chardin, 1960, Harper and Row. I would like to know if there is a copyright for the graphic and, if there is, who owns it. My name is Peter Weston. If anyone has information, please write to

Chris said...

I'm guessing that this is the cover Peter is referring to:

Peter said...

Thanks Chris! Yes, that is the cover I was looking for. I want to incorporate the graphic converging on omega into a seal for a nonprofit that I have founded. I would like to know if someone owns the copyright. I want to make sure I don't have any legal issues.

Megakles Rogakos said...

I am interested in the jacket design of Richmond Lattimore’s "The Odyssey of Homer: A Modern Translation" (Harper & Row, 1967), whose woodcuts were designed by Guy Fleming. It is so unfortunate not to find biographical information on such a gifted designer online. If anyone knows his place and year of birth and death, I would be delighted to know so that I may properly credit him in my thesis.

Thanks in advance!

Megakles Rogakos, M.A., M.A.
Art Historian & Exhibition Curator
41 Xenokratous Street, Athens, 10676, Greece
☏ +30 6979 783 973 ✉

Nader Alawar said...

I just recently bought the book "The Doors of Perception" and "Heaven and Hell" by Aldous Huxley and realized that on the back it says cover design by Guy Fleming. So I decided to do some research and ended up here. I was wondering if this may be the same Guy Fleming you are talking about also the book looks a bit old.

Chris said...

I suspect that was the same Guy Fleming, Nader.

Anonymous said...

January 2, 2018: I am currently reading Jacques Barzun's The House of Intellect. The 1961 Harper Torchbooks Academy Library (TB 1051) title features an attractive cover designed by Guy Fleming. It depicts a large, modern two-toned (pink and black) "I" stretched from top to bottom, where in both places it also meets the right and left edges of the book. The "I" is set against a gray background and is bisected by a series of geometrical circles and lines. The text on the cover is in white. The book would have been marketed as a quality paperback and so the conservative cover, which vaguely calls to mind a concrete block or steel beam and architectural drawings seems a fitting indication of the solid thought material inside.

Chris said...


Yes, I see that image on Google. A very different style for Fleming. Harper Torchbooks were great.