Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Notes on Black Sparrow Press

I devoured the books of Paul Bowles after travelling in Morocco and I equally voraciously read Charles Bukowski after visiting the States. What links them both is the beautiful editions of their books published by Black Sparrow Press in California. The publishing house was founded in 1966 by John Martin, to begin with purely for the purpose of publishing Bukowski. The down-and-out beat writer Charles Bukowski was forty-six and working in a post office when Martin discovered his poetry. He made Bukowski an offer he couldn't refuse: $100 a month for life to quit his job, write full time and let Martin publish his work. The rest is history and Martin went on to publish other alternative writers such as John Fante and Paul Bowles.

The books feel lovely: larger than regular paperbacks, they have slightly textured, matt covers usually with a light yellow colour background. On the back might be a continuation of the design from the front, or nothing at all. There's no ISBN number, no author blurb, no quotes. The designs are beautiful yet quite simple, often with a geometric shape. Designed by John Martin's wife Barbara, who had no design qualifications or experience, the covers were printed using letterpress, a technique which gives a relief effect with bold and bright colours.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Paul Bowles: Exit on Maghreb Street

No comments :