Lost Cover Art: Bantam's HesseAstute readers may recognize my Blogger avatar as being from the cover of a 1970s-era paperback edition of Hermann Hesse's Glass Bead Game. The editions of nearly all of Hesse's books that I own are from this time, when the English translations were published by Bantam Books in the US. Fresh from Hesse's rediscovery by 1960s hippie culture, the back covers of this time gush about how "The Hesse Phenomenon" appeals both to the underground and to the establishment, man! (Well, without the "man.") :-)
The art on the front covers of these Bantam paperbacks has always intrigued me. They were usually done up in a lush, Romantic style, which contrasted with their stark white backgrounds. The images ran the gamut from the dull and dreamy to the surreal and freaky, but there was a unity of style that (to me) suggested they were all done by one artist. For fun, I rounded up as many of them as I could find via Google Images and assembled them into a collage...
Click for bigger JPG imageThe bigger JPG image isn't that much bigger, so I also put a higher-resolution PDF version on Google Docs, HERE.
The 15 images are in as close to chronological order as I could figure, with three multi-decade anthologies all put on the bottom left. In any case, the top two rows are in exactly the order that Hesse published them, so it was totally not my doing to artfully arrange the oddball blue-covered version of Siddhartha right in the center! :-)
Out of the 6 or 7 of these that I've actually read, it's interesting how my perceptions of the books are flavored by these images. The Glass Bead Game (Magister Ludi), for example, can be pretty dry in places, but those floating beads and the colorful scene behind Hatty McMustache, there, help fuel the imagination. This seems related to an ongoing discussion in the RPG blogosphere about art in game books, too... Is it just extraneous fluff, or does it serve to get those creative juices flowing? A little bit of quality is worth tons of page-padding quantity.
But the big question is: Who is the artist (or artists)? I wish I knew! The books themselves don't give any attributions for the cover art. I did find a web page that claims the artist for the covers of Demian, Beneath the Wheel, and Narcissus & Goldmund was someone named William Edwards. However, such a common name brings up many hits that makes it difficult to learn more. My two favorites -- Journey to the East and The Glass Bead Game -- do appear different enough from those other three that they could conceivably be from a different artist. If anyone reading this has additional information, please comment or contact me. I'd love to give proper attribution for my own avatar! :-)