Osibisa were an Afro-pop band popular during the 1970s. Though formed in the United Kingdom by seven multitalented musicians, four of them hailed from Africa and three the Caribbean. Their first few albums and one released much later feature monstrous, winged elephants. The covers of their debut and sophomore efforts are by Roger Dean, known for painting fanciful album covers throughout the 1970s for many bands. Vivid colors and mysterious, African-like landscapes fill the scenes, from the Savannah plain to a swampy jungle. Dean also designed the wispy logotype for Osibisa, which has been in use on almost every album cover since.

Adult. Album Covers

ADULT. are an electroclash husband-and-wife duo. The choice of displaying their name in all-caps with a period gives a punch and finality to it. Both possessing art degrees, it is not surprising that the artists themselves are responsible for creating their album artwork. Nicola Kuperus, not only provides the vocals for their rough sound but also utilizes her photographic skill to craft the mysterious yet grim scenes that grace the covers of ADULT.’s output. The subjects are very consistent: a woman without her face ever revealed in an almost artificial situation. Many of them appear distressed or nefarious, further adding to the aggressive aesthetic for the group. Another noticeable element is the use of all-caps Helvetica typographically, which its plain, neutral look gives more power to the expressive photographs.

Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library

This post features a different kind of series than has been written about before. While each series so far in question has been tied together visually across the entire series, the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library is less obvious. Publishing about one new volume each year between 1978 and 2002, Pantheon Books cover stories from folklore of major cultures in history. The covers are tied together as a series by reflecting the design and art from the culture the stories originate from in each book. These range from illustrations of animals (Japanese Tales, African Folktales) to depictions of great heroes and kingdoms (Russian Fairy Tales, Folktales from India). Some covers have changed as the title is reprinted; some of the most recent are more photographic in nature.

Japanese Tales African Folktales Russian Fairy Tales American Indian Myths and Legends

Lists of the series can be found here and here.

Mars Sci-Fi novel series by Kim Stanley Robinson

I continue these posts by looking though my collection of books. My fondness for science fiction will become apparent as I create more entries. But I begin with Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars series, all written in the 1990s. Beginning with Red Mars in 2026 with a one hundred person crew set to colonize Mars, the stories are a series of personal accounts of the 200 years of terraformation and widespread inhabitation of the planet. The colony becomes one of great technological advancement, almost utopian socially, while the planet Earth suffers from overpopulation and ecological instability. The titles also describe the state of Mars has been terraformed in each novel. Red Mars begins with the barren, cold, iron rust world of Mars as we know it; Green Mars is a transition period of introducing ecological systems; Blue Mars concludes the series with an ocean-covered, life-sustaining, Earth-like Mars. The last volume, The Martians, is a collection of short stories and poetry of the Martian inhabitants.

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson The Martians by Kim Stanley Robinson

Although I have only read a portion of the first book, I eventually bought this series and remember how inspiring it looked when I first saw it browsing my local libraries shelves as a young child. I can’t help but wonder if the well-tied together look and feel of the covers are what sparked my interest to read them. The typographic system is consistent: a condensed version of Avant Garde Gothic that compliments the futuristic, technological aspect of the story. Each cover features paintings by Don Dixon, including a group of vignette images inspired from the stories in a column left of a dominant image depicting the state of the terraformation of Mars in the novel, complimented by an appropriate color scheme. Looking at the book covers together provides a captivating visual timeline for the potential reader of the events that unfold through the series.

1993, Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
1994, Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
1996, Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
1999, The Martians by Kim Stanley Robinson

Dante's Divine Comedy paperbacks

It’s about time I get back to a schedule of at least one post a week, although it can be difficult to decide what to write about next. This post features out-of-print mass market paperbacks published by Mentor Books in the early 1980s of Dante’s classic The Divine Comedy. It comprises three parts where Dante writes about his divine travels, of which the first, The Inferno, is the most widely known and studied. Dante begins a descent through Hell with the Roman poet Virgil as his guide, then climbs the mountain of Purgatory where people atone for their sins in The Purgatorio, and at the top he is brought a vision of heavenly paradise and all its sections in The Paradiso.

Dante's Divine Comedy by Mentor Books

There have been numerous publishings and translations of The Divine Comedy, graced with many illustrative interpretations by the likes of artists Gustave Doré, William Blake, and Salvador Dali. The used book store where I’ve worked at for years had these particular translations by John Ciardi and the covers drove me to purchase them. Unfortunately, these dramatic illustrations — most likely paintings —are not credited in any of the books so send a line if you happen to know. Each painting features loose human shapes relating to the setting of each part of the story. Seen below are close-ups of each of these covers to show the detail in these expressionistic paintings. The cover for Inferno is grim yet passionate, creating a loose depiction of a morbid skull from the various shapes and patches of color. Purgatorio’s cover is in the shape of a mountain, dominated by blue and orange hues of emotion and hope, as the Earthly Paradise sits atop the summit. The last cover for Paradiso is marked by a bright palette of color and light to symbolize the good divine nature of heaven. The symmetrical composition of all three of these paintings also conjures up Rorschach inkblots, which I believe could be an intentional suggestion. The typography and layout is appropriately consistent among the three books.

Dante's Inferno

Dante's Purgatorio

Dante's Paradiso

The Inferno by Dante Alighieri, a new translation by John Ciardi
The Purgatorio by Dante Alighieri, a new translation by John Ciardi
The Paradiso by Dante Alighieri, a new translation by John Ciardi