Where modern literature met modern art: classic New Directions book design by Alvin Lustig, Paul Sahre, Rodrigo Corral and more James Laughlin founded the groundbreaking independent publisher New Directions in 1936. Just five years later, Alvin Lustig designed his first jacket for the press, a cover for the 1941 edition of Henry Miller’s Wisdom of the Heart. Lustig worked with New Directions Publishing from 1941 to 1952, and each cover was different from the last. In 1956, Laughlin looked back on their collaboration: “opening each envelope from Lustig was a new excitement because the range of fresh invention seemed to have no limits.” In many ways, Lustig’s designs helped New Directions establish its visual and literary identity: modern, distinctive, bold, cutting edge. The collaboration between Alvin Lustig and New Directions Publishing is now the stuff of design legend. But Lustig is just one giant in a storied history full of them: Andy Warhol, for example, designed covers for New Directions before he was famous, as did Ray Johnson and Milton Glaser. And New Directions was the first US publisher of Jorge Luis Borges, W.G. Sebald and Roberto Bolaño, among many others.
J.C. Gabel began his career in publishing at the age of 19. In the mid-'90s, he handmade the first issue of a "'zine" called Stop Smiling, "The Magazine for High-Minded Lowlifes" as it came to be known. Modeled on "the glory days of magazine publishing"--1960s Esquire, early Rolling Stone, vintage Playboy, the National Lampoon, et cetera--Stop Smiling eventually developed into a full-color glossy with timeless themes, stories and interviews, and by 2003 was coming out five times a year. In 2010 he made his first foray into book editing with How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The History of the Vocoder from WWII to Hip Hop--the Machine Speaks by Dave Tompkins and Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews by Sam Weller, which were released to both critical and commercial acclaim.