Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Roundup of Vintage Covers

A Roundup of Vintage Covers

As I stated in a comment to an article by John Norris, here's a group of vintage covers of novels from my own collection.

A few notes to better understand when described

the number in Roman numerals appearing sometimes in Italian editions, before the date of publication, is about the year of the Fascist Era.
I Libri Gialli Mondadori with jacket, are quite rare in Italy. The Books Salani, had no jacket, but the covers had very beautiful illustrations and they have a fair value in the collectors' market.

The Crime Novels in Italy are told "Gialli" (Yellow Books), by the colour yellow of the Jacket of book. The first books with yellow jacket were "I Libri Gialli Mondadori", the oldest collection of mystery books(  from 1929) after Editions Le Masque (in France, instead they began to publish novels from 1928) in Europe.

The books of Editions Gallimard, France, are quite rare. Among
the rarest and most expensive in the collectors' market of the novels of  '30, are the novels by Letailleur and Vindry

Edouard Letailleur - Danse De Mort - Edition Gallimard - Collection Detective, 1935, Paris, pagg. 253 

Letailleur, Edouard
[February 2, 1897, Oye-Plage - August 11
1976, Corbeil]. French. The son of a doctor, but little desire to continue the career of his father, becomes aviator military, pig farmer, hotelier
From 1932 to 1937 he published at Editions Gallimard ten mystery novels put in aristocratic and bourgeois universe, characterized by a strong psychological introspection, and atmosphere of anguish and terror. Shadows, coffins, skeletons, monsters, and real murderers.

Newton Gayle - La Casa nel Ciclone ( Murder at 28:10, 1936)  - trad. Alfredo Pitta - I Libri Gialli No.196 - Mondadori, Verona - XVI, October 1938, pagg.241


Eugène Wyl, pseud. Eugene de Lejarre; Michel Herbert.

Michael Wally (Michel Herbert - Eugene Wyl) : La Casa Vietata (La Maison Interdite, 1932) - G.E.M. (Gialli Economici Mondadori) N.188, Milano -  May 8, 1941

In contrast to Boileau and Vindry, Messrs. Herbert and Wyl were not prolific, but their “La Maison Interdite (The Forbidden House)” is a minor classic.  A mysterious stranger who has been threatening the owner of an isolated mansion appears on the threshold one dark and stormy night.  The staff, hiding in fear, hear words exchanged, shots ringing out, and the door clanging shut in the face of one of the estate watchmen.  Their master is subsequently found dead but his assailant has vanished under their noses.  I selected this book because it has without question the finest court-room denouement I have ever read, but one only made possible by the French judicial system.  One of the defence witnesses is allowed by the three-judge tribunal (a characteristic of the French system) to build a case which exonerates the accused and reveals a solution which is a total surprise but an inevitable one in hindsight, all while the judges sit passively by and let him talk.  It could never happen in the UK or the US 
(John Pugmire, ).

One of the best Locked Rooms I read

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT - Le due vite di Giacomo Blake ( The President's Mystery Story,1935) - Il Romanzo Mensile, Milano, Anno XXXV, N.3 - May, 1937.

R.A.Knox - L'Assente ritorna (Still Dead, 1934) - G.E.M. 
(Gialli Economici Mondadori) N.195, Milano - August 23, 1941

Henry Holt - Il Pugnale Malese (The Mayfair Mystery, 1929) - I Romanzi della Sfinge N.20 - Salani, Firenze, 1936, pagg.134


  1. I like the Italian style of paperback covers. The artist seems to have read the book and prosepctive readers get an idea of what to expect in the story as well as what the characters look like. I miss this kind of artwrok. Nowadays we seem to be stuck with mostly photo manipulation and "graphic design." It's so dull most of the time. I also like some of the titles better than the originals. The Malay Dagger (the Holt novel) is more intriguuing and a tad better than the pedestrian The Mayfair Mystery.

  2. Bravo, John! In fact it is so for a lot of artists who worked in Italy drawing the covers.
    Even more so I'll tell you that for many years after the war, a historic Italian designer had an exclusive contract for books detective Mondadori: his name was Jacono. He first read the novels - it is said - and then realized the covers. I remember a historic cover of "It Walks By Night" Carr: he drew the face Bencolin, accentuating the slight squint that Carr mentions when describes his appearance.
    Here there aren't Jacono covers, but if you like the covers, next time I will propose you other (among which also Jacono's covers).