Penguin book covers

In 1968 Penguin’s new art director for fiction, David Pelham, commissioned the Italian graphic designer Franco Grignani to produce a set of 16 covers for a science fiction mini-series which was to appear in 1969–70.

As well as being a designer, Grignani was a leading figure in the field of experimental photo­graphy with a career stretching back some 40 years to his early work with photograms. From this he progressed to a range of techniques based on standard photography which he then projected and distorted using lenses, shards of glass, pieces of broken mirror, or liquids such as oil and water.

The images that such techniques produce are beautifully represented by Grignani’s designs for the science fiction series, which reinstated the black covers Alan Aldridge had introduced in 1966, along with the science fiction label which had previously been overlooked.

Grignani’s black covers and single-colour images form a kaleidoscope of shimmering dreams and shattered nightmares. They are like a free associ­ation of thoughts mapped out in watery reflections that briefly coalesce and then disperse, leaving memories of figures trapped in the fragments of
a looking-glass.

They hint at other dimensions and warped worlds where space swims and time shudders. Viewed as a set they would not look out of place if framed and hung on the walls of an art gallery.

The thought of 16 black spines lined up on a book­shelf seems somewhat prosaic by comparison.

James Pardey, Editor, The Art of Penguin Science Fiction

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