Long before I knew who Barbara Pym was, I knew what her books looked like. The American hardcover editions were all published by E.P. Dutton and featured distinctive cover art with repeating patterns evocative of wallpaper. I remember shelving those Duttons in high school in the late 1980s when I worked at the local library in my small hometown in central Minnesota. Over the years I would bump into them at other libraries as I browsed for reading material. When I decided to give Pym a go in 2002, I remember thinking to myself that I was finally going to read one of those books with the memorable covers. Happily, the rather shabby West End Library here in DC had a shelf of them just waiting for me.
As I began buying copies of Pym novels over the past few years, I purchased whatever was at hand so that I could read them. But as the mishmash of different editions started to pile up I was drawn to the Dutton covers. Not just because their uniform style appealed to my mild OCD, but I felt graphic artist Jacqueline Schuman best captured the spirit of Pym. Michael Adams at Open Letters Monthly has mused that, at least for those of us in the U.S., Schuman’s work made becoming a Pym fan “not only emotionally satisfying, but aesthetically pleasing, too.”
|I’ve recently managed to collect all of Pym’s novels in the Dutton editions.|
Intrigued by those Dutton covers I went on a Google hunt to find out more about their creator Jacqueline “Jackie” Schuman. The Googs came up with quite a few credits for these Pyms and other book covers designed by Schuman. Most notable is the wonderful Colette series published under the Noonday imprint by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It was a delight to find out that the old copy of The Ripening Seed sitting on my shelf was one of Schuman’s designs..
But beyond those artwork credits, there was no information about Schuman anywhere. Assuming she lived in the New York area and assuming she was of a certain age I called a Jackie Schuman I found in the white pages but she turned out not to be the Jackie Schuman I was looking for. I called Penguin USA (Dutton’s publishing overlord) and much to my chagrin they don’t have an archivist who could help me out. (By the way, wouldn’t that be a fantastic job, and a rather Pymisan one: archivist at a giant publishing house with lots of legacy imprints? The actual primary resources may not even exist anymore, but one can fantasize…) I then spoke with a very helpful reference librarian at the Rhode Island School of Design who couldn’t find anything. I also emailed a reference librarian at the Library of Congress who did find a reference to her in a directory of women in advertising. (I haven’t made it over there yet to read the entry for Schuman.)
Then it occurred to me to see if the New York Times online had any items that referenced Schuman. Within about an hour of doing that New York Times search, I was on the phone with Jackie’s daughter Kathy Schuman who was happy to talk about her mother’s life and work.
Jackie was born Jacqueline Wilsdon on May 3, 1935 in Windsor, England and lived with her parents at 19 Worple Close in Harrow. During World War II, she was sent out of London to live in the country away from the dangers of the Blitz. Not long after the war Jackie and her mother emigrated to the U.S. arriving in New York on February 8, 1947 on an American Overseas Airlines flight. Kathy says that her mother was teased for her English accent and quickly went about adopting an American accent that would last the rest of her life. Jackie attended the High School of Music and Art, better known in New York simply as Music and Art. At age 16 in 1951–around the time Pym was working on Excellent Women and Jane and Prudence,–Jackie spent two months in England visiting her father.
After high school Jackie attended Cooper Union at night while working during the day. In her early career she was on the staff at the advertising firm Ogilvy and Mather, and then later worked at Doubleday and Co., Harper and Row, Viking Press, and Grossman Publishers. Jackie was married to oboist Henry Schuman but the couple divorced when Kathy, their only child, was still young.
In 1972 she struck out on her own and did freelance work for most of the major New York publishing houses until her death in 2001. Kathy says her mother always did her work the old fashioned way, drawing and lettering by hand and cutting and pasting by literally cutting and pasting. By the time computers were in widespread use in graphic design Jackie felt she was old enough and advanced enough in her career that it she didn’t need to learn the technology.
|Jacqueline “Jackie” Schuman in the 1970s in front of one of her paintings.
(photo courtesy of Kathy Schuman)
When she wasn’t working, Jackie was an avid reader, a music and opera fan (and a friend of New York Times music critic Anthony Tommasini), sewed, made non-traditional patchwork quilts, and took and developed photographs. In the 1970s she did some abstract paintings but later decided she didn’t like them and destroyed all but three of her pieces.
Jackie died of cancer on July 20, 2001 at the age of 66 (incidentally the same age as Pym when she died of breast cancer in 1980). Given that Schuman died at a time when the Internet was not quite the catch-all that it is today, it was easy to understand why she didn’t leave much of a digital footprint. It seems appropriate that as we celebrate the work of Pym, an artist whose work almost disappeared, that we recognize another artist whose work shouldn’t disappear.
|1978 (written 1949-51, published UK 1952)|
|1978 (written 1973-76, published UK 1977)|
|1979 (written 1963-69, first published UK 1978)|
|1980 (written 1953-54, first published UK 1955)|
|1980 (written 1955-56, first published UK 1958)|
|1980 (written 1977-79, first published UK 1980)|
|1981 (written 1950-52, first published UK 1953)|
|1982 (written 1957-60, first published UK 1961)|
|1982 (written 1960-65, first published UK 1982)|
|1983 (written 1935-50, first published UK 1950)|
|1985 (written 1939-40, first published UK 1985)|
|1986 (written 1970-71, published UK 1986)|
|1987 (written 1936-38, published UK 1987)|
The covers for the Moyer Bell editions and the recently issued Open Road Media editions of Pym’s novels seem like a nod to Schuman’s work.
|Moyer Bell. If anyone has this book leave a comment and let me know who designed the cover.|
|Open Road Media has paperback and electronic editions with covers designed by Mimi Bark.|
|Virago’s reissue. Appealing to a younger audience?
Cover art by Jessie Ford.
|Harper and Row Perennial Library edition cover design by Fred Marcellino|
|The original UK first edition.
(photo: John Atkinson Fine and Rare Books)
|1984 Jackie Schuman|
|Jackie Schuman designed the background art, Neil Stuart designed the jacket, Christine Rodin hand tinted the photograph.|
|I think this may be my favorite Pym cover by Schuman.|
Design your own Pym cover art!
Don’t forget about our cover contest. Submit via email or link in a comment by 6 AM U.S. Eastern Daylight Time on June 7th. Get creative and make a cover image for a Pym novel. Extra points go to those who make it thematic to a specific novel. Multiple entries are acceptable. Paint, draw, sculpt, do a collage, manipulate a photo, you name it, just make sure you put some creativity and originality into your entry.