Karl Uhlemann – FNT covers

December 14, 2011

Meas na Filíochta, Odhrán Ó Duáin OFM, FNT, (1968). Cover design: Karl Uhlemann

Sladmhargadh, Donach de Róiste, FNT, (1968). Cover design: Karl Uhlemann

Ó Rabharta Go Mallmhuir, Seán ‘ac Fhionnlaoich, FNT, (1975). Cover design: Karl Uhlemann

Fir Chlaímh, Seán Ó Mulláin, FNT, (1976). Cover design: Karl Uhlemann

Slán Leis an gComhluadar, Mícheál Ó hOdhráin, FNT, (1961). Cover design: Karl Uhlemann

Feoil an Gheimhridh, Colm Ó Baoill, FNT, (1980). Cover design: Karl Uhlemann

Is Glas na Cnoic, Seán ‘ac Fhionnlaoich, FNT, (1977). Cover design: Karl Uhlemann

 

Foilseacháin Náisiúnta Teoranta (FNT) (National Publications Limited) published Irish language books until 1988 and, despite the very formal moniker, it wasn’t a State run publisher but in fact a commercial enterprise (although it did receive some subsidies over the years). The company was incorporated in Westport in 1947 when it bought the printing works of the Mayo News. It continued to publish that paper but it’s main focus was the Irish language newspaper Inniu which had been founded by Ciarán Ó Nualláin and Proinsias Mac an Bheatha’s Glúin na Bua (a breakway from Conradh na Gaeilge) in 1943. Ciarán Ó Nualláin was Flann O’Brien’ brother and, more importantly from our point of view, also the brother of Mícheál Ó Nualláin whose design work we have featured previously.

FNT’s book publishing activity started as a sideline to the newspaper business but the number of titles grew steadily over the years. Karl Uhlemann was FNT’s main cover artist for a considerable portion of its existence. Above are examples of his work for them over a twenty year period from 1961 to 1980. It is interesting to see how his skills developed with time, particularly when comparing his treatment of the Traveller’s caravans in the covers from 1961, Slán Leis an gComhluadar, and 1975, Fir Chlaímh.

My favourites are Meas na Filíochta, with its Japanese feel, and the pop art sci-fi explosion of Sladmhargadh. You can see more of Mr Uhlemann’s work and what little I’ve been able to ascertain of his biography in these two earlier posts.

Fergus O’Ryan covers

October 19, 2011

In Monavalla, Joseph Brady, Gill & Son, (1963). Cover design: Fergus O’Ryan

Legends of Killarney, Donal O’Cahill, published by author, (n.d. 8th ed.). Cover design: Fergus O’Ryan

Fergus O’Ryan RHA ANCA (1911-1989) is better known today as a painter but he spent most of his working life as ‘a professional designer and commercial artist’ as a 1949 catalogue described him.

He worked with McEvoy’s Advertising Services in Dublin in the early 1940s and in 1943 he was with the Rank Organisation working at the Theatre Royal. He became art director and remained there until it closed down in 1962, designing backdrops and scenery as well as cinema posters. From there he went on to teach lithography at the National College of Art until his retirement in 1976.

His paintings, though well executed, are quite anodyne and hark back to Impressionism. What little I’ve seen of his commercial and print work is much more interesting. I would quite happily have a print of the In Monavalla cover on my wall. The character on the cover looks like the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit although I’m not sure if that was the intention.

63 pieces of O’Ryan’s commercial work sold as part of a lot of ’60s and ’70s Irish Sweepstakes advertising art in 2005.

Freemantle Mission, Seán Ó Lúing, Anvil Books, (1965). Cover design: Joe O’Byrne

The mystery of the Casement ship, Captain Karl Spindler, Anvil Books, (1965). Cover design: Joe O’Byrne

The Clanking of Chains, Brinsley MacNamara, Anvil Books, (1965). Cover design: Joe O’Byrne

Above are three covers for Anvil Books designed by Joe O’Byrne in 1965. The post-nominal initials MIAPI after his credit for the Fremantle cover were the vital clue to who he might be. A member of the Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland, O’Byrne was working for O’Kennedy Brindley when he designed these covers, on the side, for Anvil. He later went on to found his own advertising agency, O’Byrne Associates, which gave Brennan’s Bread their distinctive yellow and red wrappers and the slogan “Today’s Bread Today”.

Anvil Books specialised in Irish history with a heavy leaning to Republican themes. The Clanking of Chains stands out for being a novel. O’Byrnes’ design echos MacNamara’s most infamous work, Valley of the Squinting Windows, placing a figure in a window as the only illustration in a predominately typographic treatment. To my mind, the Fremantle Mission is the most striking cover of the three. The orange of the sun really jumps out from the rust background.

Rethinking the Church, Edited by F.V. Johannes, Logos, (1970). Cover design: Des Fitzgerald

Morals, Law & Authority, Edited by J.P. Mackey, Logos, (1969). Cover design: Des Fitzgerald

Celibacy and Virginity, Auer/Egenter/O’Connor, Logos, (1968). Cover design: Des Fitzgerald

The Council Reconsidered, Louis McRedmond, Logos, (1966). Cover design: Des Fitzgerald

Look Towards the East, John Power, Logos, (1969). Cover design: Des Fitzgerald

Set My Exiles Free, John Power, Logos, (1969). Cover design: Des Fitzgerald

New Ways in Theology, J. Sperna Weiland, Logos, (1968). Cover design: Des Fitzgerald

Logos was an imprint of Gill & Macmillan which published books on theology, philosophy and sociology. Launched in the years following the Second Vatican Council, the cover art reflects the Church’s unlikely embracing of Modernism, particularly in architecture, during this period.

With such obtuse titles as Morals, Law & Authority and Celibacy and Virginity the designer, Des Fitzgerald, has managed to do an admirable job. I can find no biographical information on Mr Fitzgerald but I can reveal that he is the (uncredited) designer behind one of the most well known Irish book covers of the last half century – Soundings – the school poetry anthology edited by Augustine Martin.

I had hoped to include the Soundings cover with this post but haven’t been able to source a clean copy as it was invariably defaced by sullen students. The reissued version sports a cover by the very talented Graham Thew which plays on that very fact, adding the updated information as scrawls on the original cover.

The Book of Famous Irish Spy Stories, Daniel O’Keeffe, Irish Pocket Books (1956). Design: M.G. (Michael Gallivan)

The Book of Famous Irish Ghost Stories, Edited by Daniel O’Keeffe, Irish Pocket Books (c. 1956). Design: Michael Gallivan. (Courtesy of Larry Hynes)

Memorable Irish Trials, Kenneth E.L. Deale, Irish Pocket Books (c. 1956). Design: Osborne. (Courtesy of Larry Hynes)

Valentine Vaughan Omnibus, R. Thurston Hopkins, Grafton (1947). Design: unknown

A Case Book of Ghosts, F.W. Gumley & M.P. Mahon, Northern Whig (1971). Design: unknown

Triúr don Chómgargadh, Eoghan Ó Grádaigh, Sáirséal 7 Dill Scéalta Mistéir Uimhir 5 (1968). Design: Úna Ní MhaoilEoin

Ruathar Anall, Eoghan Ó Grádaigh, Sáirséal 7 Dill Scéalta Mistéir Uimhir 3 (1962). Design: Seoirse Mac Aodhagáin

Genre fiction has never really taken hold with Irish publishers. The zealous censorship of publications during the first few decades of the State probably played a role but it is more likely that there just isn’t a big enough population to sustain indigenous mass market paperbacks. The above examples of crime, mystery and horror covers display a charming amateurishness.

The first three are from The Mercier Press’ Irish Pocket Books imprint which operated in the mid-fifties. Michael Gallivan illustrated the first two and the third is by a mysterious ‘Osborne’. I’m afraid I can find no information on either artist. Larry Hynes kindly provided two of the examples which he included in a beautiful poster design celebrating 21 years of Charlie Byrne’s book shop in Galway.

There are 24 years between the next two examples, 1947’s Valentine Vaughan Omnibus and A Case Book of Ghosts from 1971, although the latter cover could easily be from the same period. Unfortunately, I don’t own a copy of the Valentine Vaughan book. The October 2010 issue of Book and Magazine Collector, from which the image is taken, estimates it’s value at £150-£200 sterling! The book is set in London but was published in Dublin by Grafton.

The final two covers are from Sáirséal agus Dill’s Scéalta Mistéir (Mystery Stories) series from the sixties. Úna Ní MhaoilEoin presents a rather naive rendering of a smoking pistol on the fifth book in the run, Triúr don Chómgargadh. I previously posted another of her designs for the series, An Masc. Ní MhaoilEoin wrote and illustrated a number of travel books for Sáirséal agus Dill during the sixties including An Maith Leat Spaigiti? (Do You Like Spaghetti?) (1965) and Turas Go Tuinis (Trip to Tunisia) (1969). According to Manchán Magan the Sunday Dispatch described her books as the most amusingly outspoken books ever to have appeared in the Gaelic language.

Ioldánas: Irish Crafts Exhibition, Irish Section World Crafts Council (1970). Design: unknown

Transportation in Dublin, An Foras Forbartha (1973). Design: Dara Ó Lochlainn Associates

Here are two booklet covers from the early Seventies. The first is a catalogue for an exhibition of Irish Crafts and the second is a report on transportation in Dublin.

The Ioldánas Irish Crafts Exhibition was organised by the Irish section of the World Crafts Council to coincide with the fourth general assembly of the World Crafts Council in Dublin, 1970. Despite Ireland’s impressive craft lineage (the cover image is a 3,500 year old gold lunula), Ida Grehan in The Irish Times was disparaging of the whole endeavour asking “will it be up to the high standard of Trinity College Library where Picasso, Lurçat and a succession of international artists have been exhibited?” (The Irish Times, May 27, 1970). Nevertheless, the exhibition was a success and directly led to the establishment of the Crafts Council of Ireland the following year.

The font on the cover is Helvetica, still a fresh and modern face in 1970. The rest of the catalogue utilises the beautiful Colmcille typeface, designed by Colm Ó Lochlainn with Karl Uhlemann at the Sign of the Three Candles.

The second cover, Transportation in Dublin, was designed by Colm Ó Lochlainn’s son Dara’s design agency. Although it is from 1973 it feels very sixties. This is no doubt due to the use of  Sans Serif No 7 (the digitised version is more commonly called Bureau Grotesque) by Stephenson Blake, a quintessentially British typeface popular in the 1960s. Also, the cars in the photo look a little out of date. I have a feeling the photo is from a few years earlier although it may be a reflection of the recession of the seventies beginning to bite with motorists making do with the old car rather than splashing out on a new model.

Many of the recommendations in the report were implemented, including the East Link bridge and the M50 motorway. The “Possible Underground System” has yet to materialise.

Séideán Bruithne (Typhoon), Joseph Conrad, Oifig Díolta Foillseacháin Rialtais (1935). Cover design: unknown

An tOileán Corghruanach (The Coral Island), RM Ballentyne, Oifig An tSoltáthair (1939). Cover design: unknown

An Fáidh Dubh (The Black Prophet), William Carleton, Oifig An tSoltáthair  (1940). Cover design: unknown

Críocha Fiadhaine an Tuaiscirt, Sir William Butler, Oifig An tSoltáthair  (1938). Cover design: unknown

I’ve been very tardy in updating the blog of late, a trend I hope to reverse in future as I’ve built up a back-log of interesting book covers. Unfortunately, it is proving difficult to find information on a lot of the designers and illustrators and that is causing me to hesitate about posting covers. I will try to keep updating at regular intervals regardless of the depth of detail I’ve managed to amass on the artist involved.

Recently, Will Schofield of the excellent 50watts blog (formerly A Journey Round My Skull) featured 14 covers of Irish language books from the 1930s from my collection. The covers include artwork by Austin Molloy, George Altendorf, Olive Cunningham, Michael A Keane, and Victor Penny, all of who studied illustration and layout at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art (now the National College of Art & Design).

Above are four of the featured designs by artists that I have been unable to identify. The bold flat colours really jump off the page and make a great argument for embracing spot colour printing in contemporary book covers as the ubiquitous four colour process (CYMK) can’t come close to reproducing such vivid shades.

I hope to feature Molloy, Altendorf, Cunningham, Keane and Penny in individual posts as each is a significant book jacket artist in the their own right. In the meantime, take a look at some nice examples of their work over at 50watts.

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