Fifteen Penguin Covers By Franco Grignani

*Warning* This post contains a lot of images (fifteen to be precise) to scroll through at the bottom of this written piece but they’re all well worth taking  a look at. Apologies in advance…

I’ve written once before that putting together a collection of anything can be a frustrating and disheartening endeavour before indulging in the pleasure afforded by it’s eventual completion. Sometimes however, that completion can never seem to be obtained as is the case with this series of books.

It all began a year or so ago ago when I discovered a great website called The Art Of Penguin Science Fiction (here) through a friend and began clicking on the thumbnails of book covers to discover more about them. I had a few books in my collection at that time but this resource has been an invaluable tool for me since its discovery. I have used it to assemble several fine collections of Penguin SF titles along with a few partial collections – this one included.

I’ve been here so many times before – a few easy finds with low prices, a false sense of security. Then the hunt begins in earnest, eBay is no use and it’s time to hit up the dealers & contacts I have in the trade. This can be a hit or miss affair as the last book or two can command serious prices depending on author, condition etc. Usually however, I somehow manage to get across the line… but not this time.

Back in 1969, Penguin’s new art director David Pelham commissioned Italian designer and experimental photographer Franco Grignani to produce a series of art pieces for a series of books to be published that year and into 1970. Grignani’s approach was unique at the time using shattered mirrors, oil, water and other substances to reflect images which he would then photograph. To quote the website;

“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 sixteen black spines lined up on a bookshelf seems somewhat prosaic by comparison”.

Like the David Pelham cover article I wrote before this (here) I thought that it would be great to hang all sixteen covers in a pixelated art gallery for the denizens of cyberspace to gaze at rather than having those black spines look out at me from my library shelf. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.

It’s been almost a year since I bought the last title in this collection and eBay has been unkind since then. My trade contacts have not had a sniff of the final book I need, most admitting that they’ve never even seen copies come up for sale. Because of this, I have decided to share what I have – fifteen Penguin covers by Franco Gignani and hope that I find my missing copy – The Day It Rained Forever by Ray Bradbury – because it will have a good home waiting for it here amongst it’s brothers.

The Productions Of Time by John Brunner

Brunner The Productions of time

Berserker by Fred Saberhagen

Saberhagen Berserker

The Wanderer by Fritz Leiber

Leiber The Wanderer

Bill, The Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison

Harrison Bill The Galactic Hero

Search The Sky by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth

Pohl Kornbluth Search The Sky

The Penultimate Truth by Philip K. Dick

PKD The Penultimate Truth

Rork! by Avram Davidson

Davidson Rork

Starchild by Frederick Pohl and Jack Williamson

Pohl Williamson Starchild

The Judgement Of Eve by Edgar Pangborn

Pangborn The Judgement Of Eve

The Squares Of The City by John Brunner

Brunner The Squares Of The City

Davy by Edgar Pangborn

Pangborn Davy

The Traps Of Time edited by Michael Moorcock

Moorcock Traps Of Time

Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber

Leiber Conjure Wife

The Reefs Of Space by Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson

Pohl Williamson The Reefs Of Space

Time Out Of Joint by Philip K. Dick

PKD Time Out Of Joint

As the above quote states, “The thought of sixteen black spines lined up on a bookshelf seems somewhat prosaic by comparison”. I tend to agree with that perspective entirely as here’s the regular view I get from my library – not the merest hint of the incredible art contained on each of those covers;

Spines On Shelf

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15 thoughts on “Fifteen Penguin Covers By Franco Grignani

  1. Postcard Cafe 07/11/2014 / 10:38 am

    The black covers really make this feel like a proper series and I can imagine the frustration in being unable to complete the collection.
    Thanks for sharing this series. The first does look like it was inspired by the opening credits to a james bond film! 🙂
    Just a thought about the tags used on your blogposts. I believe wordpress state that the optimum number of tags is 12 and that beyond this search engines do not recognise or exclude posts with more than this number. It might be worth checking so that your tags are being properly recognised by search engines and perhaps bring more like minded people to your site. I cannot remember if it is twelve but I’ve got it into my head that it is and between the categories and tags I rarely go above 12. If you do look it up then maybe let me know if Im wrong or maybe even right!
    Best wishes
    Mr C

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    • unsubscriber 07/11/2014 / 11:05 am

      Thanks for the comments Mr Cafe, I like your Bond reference. I always saw a kind of youthful 60s irreverent current affairs show cast… but that’s just the way my mind works I suppose! I know the post is picture heavy but they really did look amazing laid out when I was getting ready to photograph them. I just everyone to see them as I did that morning, and at home on the bookshelf too. I guess that’s why there are so many tags. I must look into that later on. Thanks for the email too Mr C, I’ll send a reply later today I promise. Look after yourself and wrap up warm, don’t let the sniffles get the better of you. Best wishes.

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  2. fromcouchtomoon 07/11/2014 / 11:19 am

    Those are beautiful and definitely belong on the wall, instead of the shelf. Good luck finding that elusive Bradbury.

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    • unsubscriber 07/11/2014 / 11:23 am

      Thanks for taking the time out to look through so many images, I’m glad you think they’re more like art than mere book covers, there are many covers here which I’d like to have framed but these as a set would be stunning. Fingers crossed for that Bradbury! All the best.

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  3. Bernie 07/11/2014 / 11:57 am

    I’ve only ever had one of these in my possession, the first one, and can’t remember seeing them back in my collecting days. What a treat to see them all like this! And what great books Penguin chose to have illustrated by this man. I’ll join the others in wishing you luck with the Bradbury, and will of course keep my own eyes peeled on the rare occasion I venture into the right kind of shop these days. Take care, Bernie

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    • unsubscriber 07/11/2014 / 12:30 pm

      Thanks Bernie, I was worried initially that the post would be too much to take in all at once – they’re very visually strong images and block colours. David Pelham was of course a brilliant artist in his own right but was also an extremely talented art director, who else would have brought in an experimental photographer like Grignani to illustrate sci-fi books? I hope to have everyone out looking for the missing Bradbury by the end of the week!! Best wishes Bernie xx

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  4. johncnash 07/11/2014 / 12:24 pm

    Damn me, this is a cool post! I love those Penguin covers. I only have one of these myself, Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife, and I plan on posting a review of it in the next few weeks.
    Slightly off topic, but I collect the Penguin Modern Poets series from the 60s, they have a very similar design feel to them.
    Wonderful stuff, as always. Thanks for posting them.

    Like

    • unsubscriber 07/11/2014 / 12:36 pm

      Why thank you Mr Nash, good to know you enjoyed these striking images – Conjure Wife is one of my favourite covers although I still haven’t read the book as yet. I look forward to your review immensely though to see what you think.

      I think up until a mighty wobble in the 80s and 90s, Penguin have always done the best all round job with their art direction. If I had to take the output from only one publisher to a desert Island with me it would undoubtedly be Penguin – Imagine the riches!

      Best wishes to you and yours.

      Liked by 1 person

    • unsubscriber 07/11/2014 / 4:56 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the covers Mr Lestaret, I thought these might appeal to you of all people as an aficionado of experimental artwork. Don’t feel too jealous though, I’ll let you fondle them on your next visit.

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  5. Guy 13/07/2015 / 8:31 pm

    HI

    Wow these are striking covers, very much of the period. I looked at the first couple and i was undecided but as I scrolled through more and more they just seem to become really iconic. It is a wonderful series to see and and I understand why you wanted the complete set. What really struck me as well was the mix of titles, of the ones I have read I would say they formed a real cross-section with some classic SF writers, some new wave and some that fall somewhere in the middle.
    Having looked at a number of your posts I can see some areas of my collection I would like to develop. If my wife was not napping I am sure she would sigh.

    Thanks for this.
    Guy

    Liked by 1 person

    • unsubscriber 15/07/2015 / 11:30 am

      I absolutely loved this series when I started collecting it, the covers are of their time but very iconic too. I was very lucky to complete it only recently thanks to an eagle-eyed reader! It’s a great mix of titles too, I’ve loved reading through them all although I still have a few to finish. I’m lucky in one respect as I don’t have to justify my purchases with a non-understanding partner! Best wishes Guy.

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  6. Joachim Boaz 05/02/2017 / 2:36 am

    These are lovely!

    I MISS YOUR POSTS. Coming back any time soon?

    Joachim Boaz

    Like

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