book covers we love




I love old Penguin books. I have an abiding passion for them: I love the look of them, the feel of them, the size of them – and, of course, most of all I love the authors Penguin, in particular under Allen Lane, chose to publish. It’s thus no surprise that my first ‘Book Cover of the Month’ should be a Penguin title.

Busman’s Honeymoon (1963) is an old classic, showcasing the talents of two of my very favourite people – mistress of crime fiction Dorothy L. Sayers and influential graphic designer Romek Marber.


Why do I like this cover so much?

Because for me it’s everything a good book jacket should be – eye catching; classic, but clever; the title/author text clearly legible and complemented by a beautiful stylised illustration, in this case one very reminiscent of another favourite designer of mine, Saul Bass.


The ‘Marber grid’  – making Penguin Crime more modern

Polish-born Marber’s work can most famously be seen on the Penguin crime series jackets. In 1961, he was commissioned by acting art director Germano Facetti to create the new design grid for Penguin Crime. Marber had previously worked for Facetti on Simeon Potter’s books Language in the Modern World and Our Language and when Facetti decided that Penguin’s crime jackets needed updating he asked Marber, along with fellow designers John Sewell and Derek Birdsall, to work on some ideas. Marber’s grid won.

Incorporating elements of the original hugely popular design by Edward Young (1935), Marber’s covers retained the green colour with which the crime titles were so greatly associated, but updated it by using a livelier, brighter shade. He moved the typography and colophon to the top third of the cover, which allowed the remaining space to be utilised by an eye-catching image/illustration – as seen on Busman’s Honeymoon to such great effect.

Marber’s design was so successful that Facetti later used it on the blue Pelican series.


I was asked to do twenty titles… The ‘grid’ and the rather dark visual images, suggestive of crime, had an immediate impact. – Romek Marber, in 2007, on the ‘Marber Grid’.



Book covers we love:  ‘Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man – E. McNight Kauffer (1952)’

Other BCWL:  Georgette Heyer’s Frederica by Arthur Barbosa (1965);  Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man by E. McNight Kauffer; Dorothy L. Sayers’ Busman’s Honeymoon by Romek Marber (1963)

See also:Books that changed my life‘; ‘Penguin covers we love – with a few Puffins and Pelicans thrown in, too‘ and ‘Crime fiction‘ boards at The Literary Shed on Pinterest; and ‘How Penguin learned to fly…’ in The Literary Lounge.



Notice: Please note the images and quotations included in this article are for promotional purposes only and are intended as a homage to Penguin, Romek Marber, Edward Young and the great writers cited. In no way, have we have intentionally breached anyone’s copyright.

This article is ©The Literary Shed, 2014. It can only be reproduced with our permission. Please contact us if you wish to do so. We must be fully credited.