One of the neatest things about working in the New Directions office (along with the people, the writers, the translators, the books, the neat old building we are housed in….well, okay, most everything here is pretty nifty) is roaming around the old books and archival material that embody the history of wonderful literature published here.
Back in the days, there was an anthology put out by New Directions with the cover designed by Alvin Lustig, a graphic designer who changed how book covers should be understood physically, not as a literal embodiment of the characters but as an artistic interpretation that matched the content of the book. For the anthology, he designed a bold and simple look.
An elegant design that quickly conveys the essence of the Modern.
Besides seeing our older designs, I like to read the older books as well. One of the finds which most interested me is the Swiss writer Philippe Jaccottet. In 1977, New Directions published a slim selection of Jaccottet’s journals which were translated by the renowned translator Michael Hamburger (I still love Hamburger’s translation of Celan the most although Pierre Joris’ is quite astonishing as well). In March of 1960, Jaccottet wrote the following in his journal:
The peach tree in bloom: an impression of crowds, swarm, humming in the budding which has always struck me as the clearest feature of early spring. Of silent explosion, too. But it is particularly the multiplicity, the multitude that strikes you. And then the first flower open under the rain, like a pink star. Constellation of the peach tree. With the colour of dawn. Peach tree, constellation of dawn.
Observer of the earthly zodiac, of a galaxy arrested in its motion in a garden. It will soon be the acacia’s turn, I haven’t forgotten, I would not have thought it so lavish. Perfumes, whiteness, night of May or June, the shortest of the year.