The death of J. D. Salinger on Wednesday prompts a cover gallery of UK paperback editions of his work. Not that Salinger had a happy relationship with his publishers over here. Salinger, of course, shot to fame with the publication of The Catcher in the Rye in 1951 and immediately became a semi-recluse.
When Penguin published an edition of the novel, they published a photograph of Salinger, as they did for every author where a picture was available. Salinger was unhappy and insisted—indeed, had it written into contracts—that future Penguin editions of his work carried no photograph or biographical sketch and no reviews on the covers.
This led designers to struggle with the design of Salinger's books. The 1964 edition of Raise High the Roof bean, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction was purely typographical. Even the use of typography caused problems, as was revealed by Phil Baines in his book Penguin By Design: in 1968, Penguin found themselves "between designers" and, as an emergency measure, were publishing each book with a 36pt "A Penguin Book" strap line. This oversized headline was used on Salinger's Franny and Zooey. An unhappy Salinger had the headline removed and the cover became one of the most minimalist on Penguin's list.
One title that did have an illustrated cover was the Ace edition of For Esme—With Love and Squalor, published in 1959. This had a fabulous cover by Enric Sio and carried a range of reviews on the back cover... perhaps the reason why Ace Books did only the one Salinger novel. It was subsequently reprinted by Four Square. Penguin, with their strict overall design concept, could pull off the minimalist covers that most other publishers would have rejected.
Update: 3 February 2010
Salinger continued to be heavily involved in the covers Penguin produced for his books into the 1990s when they were reissued, as revealed by Tim Bates in a recent letter to The Guardian.
The Catcher in the Rye. Boston, MA, Little, Brown, 1951; London, Hamish Hamilton, 1951.
Nine Stories. Boston, MA, Little, Brown, 1953; as For Esme—With Love and Squalor and other stories, London, Hamish Hamilton, 1953.
Franny and Zooey. Boston, MA, Little, Brown, 1961; London, Heinemann, 1962.
Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. Boston, MA, Little Brown, 1963; London, Heinemann, 1963.
The Complete Uncollected Short Stories of J. D. Salinger. California, 2 vols., 1974.
Hapworth 16, 1924. Washington, DC, Orchises, 1997.
(* The rejected cover image for Franny and Zooey is from Penguin by Design: A Cover Story 1935-2005 by Phil Baines, London, Allen Lane, 2005.)