Cantos: A New Directions Blog

Andy Warhol: New Directions book designer

with 10 comments

Tucked in the history of New Directions book designers, book ended by Alvin Lustig on one side and Rodrigo Corral on the other, are four jacket designs by none other the legendary artist Andy Warhol. Yep, Andy Warhol worked for New Directions as a book designer off and on for almost 10 years. Our editor-in-chief recalls James Laughlin telling her an Andy Warhol anecdote:

“He was a very strange looking man. But all the secretaries loved him because he would sneak little origami creatures on their desks when they weren’t looking. One time as he was walking out of the office he looked bashfully over at a secretary goggling at him and said ‘I like you. You’re so hirsute.’ Her reply? A very soft and giggly ‘thank you.'”

For the most part the covers play it safe (The angel on Firbank’s Three Novels being the most well known, if only known until now, among the current staff), but uncovering The Adventures of Maud Noakes was a bit of a trip. It’s a satirical autobiographical account of a English woman with a naive fascination for Africans that wants to save the African continent from white missionaries. In a risque tongue-in cheek gesture, Andy covered both the front and back covers with what looks like potato-stamped African faces that surround a smiling raggedy-Ann looking white girl. Maud Nokes came out in 1961, a year before Andy’s fine arts debut at the Ferus Gallery which marked the beginning of his meteoric rise to art world stardom and the end of his time with New Directions. Of the four titles, only the Firbank remains in print with Andy’s very large cherub cupid on the cover, though without the candy pink back scrawl. Desire and Pursuit of the Whole is notable for not only the Warhol jacket, but also a Introduction by W.H. Auden. Someone in the office really likes the hair on the woman for Love is a Pie. Works by both Maude Hutchins and Baron Corvo have been reissued as Classics by the New York Review of Books. –Michael






Written by New Directions

July 23, 2009 at 5:13 pm

10 Responses

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  1. There are also a couple of covers by Ray Johnson – he did the Rimbaud Illuminations as well as W. C. Williams’s In the American Grain (if I’m remembering correctly) and probably more?

    I had no idea New Directions had published The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole. With Fr. Rolfe & Firbank, was Warhol being assigned gay authors or would he have requested them?

    dan visel

    July 23, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    • The paperbook editions of Illuminations and In The American Grain were indeed Ray Johnson covers that replaced the Alvin Lustig cloth cover originals. Actually, we’ve just reissued In the American Grain with the original Lustig design as well as an introduction by Rick Moody replacing the Ray Johnson cover. I know that the cover of Kenneth Patchen’s Because It Is was done in collaboration with Ray Johnson. A good place to look all this up is The New Directions Reader NDP 135. A 244-page reference guide to every iota of New Directions information for books published before 1964. That’s where I was able to look up the Warhol credits.

      In regards to your other question, I simply do not know if he targeted or was specifically given gay authors. Maude Hutchins doesn’t fall into that camp. Nor does the Alan Neame, though The Adventures of Maud Noakes is pretty racy which might have also piqued his interest.


      July 24, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    • Hey, Dan,

      We have two covers for Illuminations as well as for In the American Grain. Ray Johnson did covers for Illuminations and for In the American Grain. The other covers were done by Alvin Lustig. We are putting out a new edition of In the American Grain with the Alvin Lustig cover and an introduction by Rick Moody.


      July 24, 2009 at 3:03 pm

  2. Hi! Just read THE WAY IT WASN’T by the great James Laughlin. What a delight! It’s about time ND publishes a book on the groundbreaking graphic design involved in its books since the late 1930s.

    Pedro Marques


    July 23, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    • Hi, Pedro.

      Thanks so much for the nice comment on The Way It Wasn’t. That book showcases our renewed commitment to graphic design that matches the quality of our books; it was designed by Rodrigo Corral and Gus Powell with the production work being handled by Jennifer Van Dalsen. We have a great production manager with Rodrigo Corral signed up as a Creative Director at large, and I hope you enjoy the work they’ve been putting out as much as the classic designs for ND.


      July 24, 2009 at 3:07 pm

      • I would enjoy even more a book on the New Directions book design since its beginings, published by ND. Seriously guys: consider it for your 75th birthday. I’ll BUY that book any time, anywhere, anyhow!

        This comes from someone who waited more than 2 years to get his hands on a reasonably priced ND original edition of Lorca’s III TRAGEDIES, just because I couldn’t take my eyes off that Alvin Lustig dustjacket (the one with the montage of 5 photos)!

        Pedro Marques


        July 24, 2009 at 11:37 pm

  3. […] Andy designing — The New Directions blog looks at the book designs of Andy Warhol: Andy Warhol worked for New Directions as a book designer off and on for almost 10 years. Our editor-in-chief recalls James Laughlin telling her an Andy Warhol anecdote: […]

  4. […] Warhol designed books for New Directions (including Firbank & Fr. […]

  5. My name is Piter Jankovich. oOnly want to tell, that your blog is really cool
    And want to ask you: is this blog your hobby?
    P.S. Sorry for my bad english


    March 29, 2010 at 2:29 pm

  6. Hi. Is there any publication (or website) that lists the print runs for the early New Directions? Especially the NC series.


    glen burnie

    April 15, 2010 at 1:36 am

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