The Phantom Tollbooth’s Classic Cover Morphs

Norton Juster’s 1961 fantasy The Phantom Tollbooth is that rare classic in which the text and original illustrations are inseparable, rather like Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland.  Mention Alice and some illustration of her drawn by  John Tenniel probably pops into the mind.  Is Milo ever anyone but the skinny boy in a black sweater Jules Feiffer drew?   And there’s only one cover design for the book.  This one.

But when a work becomes so famous that translations in other languages are called for, covers and dust jackets have a way of changing publisher to publisher, country to country..

Here’s the front board of the Korean-language version.  The right illustration is on the turquoise background, but the shade of turquoise is not quite the same as in the original.  Look carefully and you can see that the figures of Milo and Tock are shiny.  They were printed on a material other than paper and applied to the dust jacket.  American books almost never have a colored band that wraps around the boards, but it’s common in the packaging of Japanese books–and I assume elsewhere in Asia.  And the raised white characters below the banner with the English title are interesting typographically whether they are legible or not.

The selection of typefaces are the most noticeable change in the design for the Lithuanian-language.  The slate blue background is handsome, but perhaps a little dark, compared to the turquoise original.  The color did not photograph true, so you’ll have to take my word that it’s quite dark..The cover artist for the Romanian-language edition substituted another illustration for the original one of Milo and Toc and colorized it. Some of the figures  were also printed on the same shiny material and laminated to the cover just as in the Korean translation.  Should Milo’s car be orange?  Why does he have blue hair?  By the way, the sea in the middle distance is actually turquoise and the sky slate blue.

Now for the covers that are completely different from Feiffer’s.  All the familiar characters are there, but without making any reference to the original illustrator.  The  Hebrew and German covers are in a surrealistic style, which underscores the possibility that the journey was all in Milo’s mind.  The German translation has no text illustrations except for road signs, a concept that works very well.

The brightly colored cartoony covers for the Japanese- and Serbo-Croatian-language editions impose themselves on Juster’s world, rather than bringing out different dimensions of it.   It’s unclear why Tock was given the teeth of a human being instead of a dog, unless the change was to make him look more friendly.

The French Livre de Poche paperback is unique in placing Tock and the Humbug center stage, with Milo and his car floating in the background along with the author’s name in an extremely small sans serif type.  The French translation is, incidently, completely unillustrated except for Juster’s map. Last but not least is the Polish translation with a cover design by Grzegorz Kierzkowski.  The title set in a wild mixture of different typefaces hints that what is to come may violate rhyme and reason!   Kierzkowski deserves credit for having the confidence to reimagine Juster’s story without reference to Feiffer.  

Norton Juster himself presented to Cotsen this delightful tasting menu of modern cover design on the translations of his celebrated fantasy.  Thanks, Norton, for this very welcome and unexpected addition to the collection!  You can hear Cotsen’s Outreach Coordinator Dana Sheridan’s interview with Norton on the Bibliofiles.


Alphabet Panoramas of Comical Characters from France

I never get tired the alphabet panoramas in the collection, even though it seems like they are a dime a baker’s dozen. I have a soft spot for mid-nineteenth-century French ones, especially those falling in the category of a children’s book for all ages, from nine to ninety, where the illustrators simply couldn’t resist caricaturing everybody and everything.

The first one, La fantasmagorie. Fantasmagoria, caught my eye because the illustrations imitate magic lantern slides with their solid black backgrounds.  The cover title shows the a man in a wig operating a magic lantern projector, flanked by a Pierrot and a dancer.  The style of the binding with the gilt ribbon around the title panel looks very French, but the publisher is the London firm, Darton and Hodge.

The subjects are not familiar London types  but a magician popping out of a box.

This is such a bad baby that the devil carries it off in a basket, a trope I’ve never seen in an English book.  But it survives in prints about St. NicholasWith lungs like those, it might grow up to be a tenor.

The animated dentures are simply peculiar…

  And of course, there is a Parisian celebrity.

Cotsen 6522

The second alphabet panorama, Grandpapa’s Book of Trades.  Les petits métiers de Grand Papa, was issued as part of the same series,”Amusing Alphabets,” a literal translation of “Alphabets amusants”  in the Paris editions.   According to Lawrence Darton, the bibliographer of the Darton publishing houses, the foundering Darton and Hodge firm may have tried to liven up its offerings by issuing all thirteen of the bi-lingual titles.  The colophon of Plon in Paris at the end of the panoramas suggests that the French editions were imported and new cover title labels slapped on the English ones.Pity the poor men of science, who get no more respect than a hairdresser.

Of the two foreigners depicted in this alphabet, it is hard to say who comes off better, Italian performers or the Kabyle man, a member of the Berber tribe who emigrated to France after Algeria’s conquest.

The author and illustrator are not forgotten.  Perhaps the “Imagier” is a self-portrait of the A. Cordier who signed the picture of the Italians.  It’s the only information about any of the artists who worked on these two panoramas.