Evelyn Waugh and the paperback cover


Penguin first produced this series of Waugh paperbacks in the early 1970s, and they stayed in print well into the 1980s. They all featured a matt card cover, which set them apart from other titles, and added to the vintage feel. But they’re also quite psychedelic with pop-art that seems to have stepped out of the cover of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine album.

An interest in Art Deco flourished at the end of the sixties with a major exhibition in the United States in 1971. Not long after there was the film adaptation of The Great Gatsby with Mia Farrow and Robert Redford. A lot of seventies design features influences from the twenties and thirties, and took the past way into the future.

The font and layout of ‘Evelyn Waugh’ is as sophisticated as any brand or logo today, bleeding into the image. These covers are a perfect blend of old and the (then) new in absorbing the contemporary trademarks of the late sixties and mixing them with a more authentic feel of the thirties. Often we see shiny, mirrored, silvery interpretations of the thirties today, but here are browns, oranges, sepia, artificial blues and greens; the matt surface of interwar printed materials (no shiny laminates before the war); and the popular wallpaper design motifs of ordinary sitting rooms.

The images all ‘explain’ too – from Brideshead Revisted‘s poppy-filled memories of an idyll, to Brenda Last’s open door to ‘freedom’ in A Handful of Dust, and the shambolic Paul Pennyfeather of Decline and Fall.


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