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About those new Penguin Maigrets...

Two more volumes are slated for release in the new US Penguin Maigret series, The Hotel Majestic and The Bar on the Seine, both issued by Penguin UK in 2003 in the "Modern Classics" series, The Bar on the Seine again in 2006 in the new "Red Classics" (the inside covers are red) series.

Peter Young strongly criticized the cover design of this new Penguin series in a July posting. (He wrote again in August, noting that he had just seen a new UK edition, and that perhaps his comments had been about a US edition. In September, David Pearson, designer of the UK series, confirmed that Peter had misidentified him as the designer of what was, in fact, this US series.)

I now have copies of those first three volumes of the new US series designed by Jesse Marinoff Reyes, and will describe them here, because they are somewhat unusual...

To begin with, the size of these books is "unique", 4¾"×6½" (12×16.5cm) – relatively short and squat – a very different feeling from what Peter describes as the "old original green crime covers ... absolute classics" (like the 1950 copy shown below). On the other hand, those "old familiars" had already stopped featuring green on the covers some 40 years ago… which tells us at the very least that Penguin Maigrets have been around a long time! You can see a complete set here.

Once we recognize the size/shape difference, we find that the printing of the cover is somewhat dramatic – the photographs which form the centerpiece of each cover are printed glossy against the matte of the rest of the cover, have a thin white border, and overlap the graphics – creating the illusion of an actual photographic print pasted on. The photographs are all in black and white, and as Peter pointed out, they are "lovely and appropriately atmospheric". The rear covers give extensive… and initially perplexing… credits for the photos:


Series design by JESSE MARINOFF REYES
Cover photograph by BRASSAÏ
(Guyla Halasz, called, 1899-1984) © Estate Brassaï RMN

A Man's Head: Pigall's American Bar, Boulevard de Clichy, ca. 1930-1932. Photograph: Adam Rzepka.
Lock 14: Canal Saint-Denis, 1932. Photograph: Adam Rzepka.
The Yellow Dog: Morris Column. 1934. Photograph: Jacques Faujour.

Location: Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France.
Credit: CNAC / MNAM / Dist. Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, N.Y.

I puzzled a while over the double attribution on the photograph... and finally contacted Penguin to ask what it meant... "Cover photograph by BRASSAÏ" and, for example, "...Photograph: Adam Rzepka." A Penguin representative informed me that the second photographer took the photo of the Brassaï photograph (presumably in the museum) used on the cover. Brassaï has been used before on 'Simenon' Penguins – the same photo is used here for The Yellow Dog and Marnham's biography of Simenon:

(This picture, "Morris Column", taught me the name of those typically Parisian advertising columns.)

Another Brassaï photograph, (Avenue de la Observatoire: Léon-Paul Fargue [1932]) was used for the cover of the relatively tiny (4 1/8"×5 3/8" / 10.5×13.8cm) 1995 "Penguin 60" (for Penguin's 60th anniversary) edition of two Maigret short stories, "Death of a Nobody" and "The Man in the Street":

The designs of these covers wrap completely around the books, crossing the spines:

These are the first and only Penguin Maigrets to do so. Open the cover and what do we discover? Printed inside covers! The front is a classic '50s Simenon portrait, right to the edges:

The Simenon photograph is unattributed, but there's something very familiar about it. I know I've seen it before, and it seems to have been the model, for example, for this portrait by Désiré Roegiest (right), for the cover of the Belgian post office booklet about the 1994 stamp issue. [3/14/08 - The photo is by Jacqueline CLAUDE, 1967 - a print was offered on eBay at this date - st]

The inside rear cover is black, with a Maigret "signature" in white spanning the page. (Until 1964, all the green Penguin Maigrets had printed inside covers, often including a photograph of Simenon.)

The signature was used on the Penguin site (but not on the books) for their Modern Classics edition of the Maigrets in 2003 - the Keenan collage covers.

But it seems to have disappeared from there, and is now found as the logo of Inspector Maigret's Official Website, linked to from the Penguin Maigret pages...


Clearly, much thought and energy went into the design of this series... there is creative attention to detail in all areas. (The stripes at the top of the covers, for example, are continued at the tops of each page.) We're subjected to a certain complexity of atmosphere... novel shapes and trompe l'oeil printing style, art deco graphics and type faces, period photographs in monochrome... Successful? Over-designed? A hodge-podge? The images of the two announced titles suggest that the colors may be getting stronger... but in any event these designs by Jesse Marinoff Reyes volumes are striking – the result is unique.

(And as for those Keenan Modern Classic Maigrets of 2003... Wow! We've come a long way from the classic greens...)

ST
11/20/06

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