Seb Lester’s new JD Salinger book jacket designs

The late, great JD Salinger had some forthright views about book design, as Seb Lester found out when designing a new set of covers for the writer’s back catalogue

Type designer Seb Lester was commissioned by JD Salinger’s publisher Hamish Hamilton (part of the Penguin group) last year to work on a set of new book covers for the reclusive author’s titles, Catcher In The Rye; For Esme With Love And Squalor; Franny And Zooey; and Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour – An Introduction. Here we reveal Lester’s initial ideas for two different stylistic approaches, and the four finished book covers – which were all approved by the author before he passed away last month…

It turns out that JD Salinger had some very basic (and strict) rules about how he wanted his book covers to look. He was adamant that the only copy that should appear on his books was his name and the title of the book. No quotes or plot summary, no author biography. And definitely no marketing blurb. Just the title and his name.

“Working with John Hamilton at Hamish Hamilton I developed two possible directions for the covers,” explains Lester of his approach to the commission. “One was relatively conservative and classical in nature [see the version on the left in the sketch above and rough workings below]. The other [on the right, above and below] was more specifically American in feel, a mid-twentieth century style script. “

“I feel incredibly privileged to have worked on this project,” Lester tells us. “It really felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity so the pressure was on – not least because I knew JD Salinger would be approving the book jackets himself.”

Here are the four finished book cover designs which feature Lester’s specially drawn typeface, known within Hamish Hamilton as ‘The Salinger’:

“The direction chosen, which I prefer for both aesthetic and functional reasons, has a timeless and classical beauty about it – I hope,” says Lester. “The inline treatment and style of flourishing have echoes of classic typefaces and lettering from the mid-twentieth century period when the books were written.”

The new set of the four books were originally due to be published in June this year, but, because of the author’s death on January 27, the publication date has been brought forward to March 4.

See more of Seb Lester’s work at

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