Flames Descending Into Darkness: Richard-Paul Lohse and Rosa Luxemburg

This dust jacket, designed by Richard Paul Lohse, is probably my favorite example of book design from the 1930’s – a remarkable example of storytelling through form.

It was created for the first German translation of a work which had originally appeared in Dutch two years prior. The poet and socialist Roland-Holst was a close friend of Luxemburg. Following the ascent of the Nazi party, it was almost impossible to publish books with a socialist or pacifist attitude in Germany, and many such German language books were published in Switzerland, as with this title. Jean-Christophe Verlag was a publishing house closely allied with the Buchergilde Gutenberg, famous for publishing B. Traven. (See here for an earlier post on the flight of that press from Germany).

 

 

This shift allowed the Swiss designer Richard Paul Lohse to work on a variety of socialist books, including this title, which features one of the most striking and enduring dust jackets of the 1930’s. The front is graced with a photograph of Luxemburg; the rear panel reproduces a letter from Luxemburg to the author. The two panels are linked by a photomontage of marching socialists which begins on the back panel and marches downward to disappear into darkness on the spine, but not before coloring the word “Rosa” rose – a striking link between meaning and form. The procession ascends again at the front panel to burst into stark relief against Luxemburg’s blouse, the flags seeming to burst into flames.

 

We’re grateful for Felix Wiedler’s excellent book design blog, where we first learned about this work.

Roland-Holst, Henriette [Lohse, Richard Paul]. Rosa Luxemburg: Ihre Leben und Wirken. Zurich: Jean-Christophe Verlag, 1937. First edition. 8vo, 223 pp, bound in dove grey cloth printed in blue; illustrated dust jacket. Inquire. 

Boy London and Peter Christopherson

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The first advertisement made for the infamous London fashion store, a large format poster designed by Peter Christopherson. Boy was formed in 1977 on King’s Road by John Krivine and Steph Raynor. Christopherson at that time was both a member of Throbbing Gristle, and of the design company Hipgnosis, who had been responsible for some of the most recognizable album covers of the era, including Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. Krivine invited Christopherson to create the initial design for the store after seeing COUM’s poster designs for the Citizen’s Theatre in Glasgow.

Christopherson was responsible for the initial concept and design of the store, including the typography, and also the window displays, which showed an unconscious or dead young man. Genesis P-Orridge described them to Jon Savage as follows: “The idea was that a boy had climbed in to steal stuff, accidentally knocked over an electric fire and set the place on fire and burned to death. And these were the leftovers of the boy. So there was a Doc Marten boot with bits of flesh and there was a bit of his jeans and buttock and a finger with a ring and some mouldy hand. And they were in little forensic dishes in these glass boxes like you would find at the Black Museum. So this was just a parody of a mixture of forensic evidence and vandalism.” – [P-Orridge, quoted in Ford 7.4-7.5]

The window display was provocative enough that the windows were soon vandalized, a problem that would dog the early days of the shop. Boy London would go on to become on the most influential and controversial fashion lines of the 80’s. Christopherson would go on to form Coil with John Balance. A rare example of the early work of the most innovative and provocative designer of the period, or of any period.

Christopherson, Peter. Boy London. The Strength of a Country Lies in Its Youth. London: Boy London, [1977]. 16 1/2 x 23 3/4″, offset litho.

A strong, very good example, never folded, with creasing along the left margin.