Tuesday, August 21, 2012


[Frontispiece to Sheridan Baker’s The Practical Stylist (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1962).]

Sheridan Baker’s The Practical Stylist is a much-acclaimed, long-lived textbook for college writing classes. The above frontispiece comes from the tenth printing (1967), whose cover design and typography are credited to Guy Fleming. Perhaps the frontispiece appears in earlier printings too. Bravo to the publisher who thought it fitting to give a lovely bouquet of letters and punctuation marks to a textbook.

Who was Guy Fleming? The New York Times has a 1956 wedding announcement for a Guy Fleming and a Ruth Foster. The Guy Fleming in question was then attending the Yale School of Graphic Arts. I think he must be our man. A 1961 Times review of James Joyce’s Scribbledehobble: The Ur-Workbook for Finnegans Wake, says that “Guy Fleming, who designed the book, is the only person to emerge from the enterprise with enhanced reputation.” A comment on a 2008 post about Fleming’s work says that Fleming died “about four years ago.”

Here are six sources for more of Fleming’s work:

Guy Fleming jackets (Dreamers Rise)
More Fleming jackets (Julian Montague Projects)
One more Fleming jacket (Bennington College)
Another jacket (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Still another (Robotspaceshiptank)
One more (The Ward-O-Matic)


September 20, 2013: I was delighted to receive an e-mail from Guy Fleming’s daughter Faith Fleming. Guy Fleming (1931–2001) did indeed study at Yale (bachelor’s in Art History, 1953; master’s in design, 1955). Faith describes her father as “a book designer, jacket designer, typographer, cartographer, illustrator, painter, and wood carver.” An excerpt from her e-mail (used here with permission):

My memories are a bit sketchy about the publishers he worked with but the list included a number of the major trade publishers of the time: Knopf, Harper & Row, Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, etc. After a few years he and my mother moved to Eastern Long Island (where my mother’s family had a potato farm) and he began working from home with weekly trips to the city. At some point, he went freelance and worked by mailing his designs and mechanicals to the publishers. In the early 1960s we moved to Maine where he would work as a freelance designer until he had to retire due to poor eyesight.

I remember when he worked on the jackets for Gabriel García Márquez. I would visit his studio daily after school and loved watching him work and talking with him. His studio was unheated except for a massive woodstove, usually included a sleeping dog and or cats, a radio playing a classical radio station, and a lot of cigarette smoke. He read a majority of the books he designed and all of the ones he did jackets or illustrations for. He was extremely well read, witty and passionate about his work.
Good news for anyone who admires Guy Fleming: Faith plans to share photographs of her father’s work online.

comments: 5

Janice Fried said...

Hello! My dad was in the army with Guy Fleming in the 1950's and they remained friends, albeit long distance ones, well after their service. I have lovely memories of visiting him and his family on Long Island and in Maine. He also gave me a lot of professional advice when I was in art school studying illustration.
I was pleased to come upon your blog (4 years after your original posting!) Do you know if Faith ever did do anything about posting her dad's work online?

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for writing, Janice. No, I haven’t seen anything further. If I do, I’ll certainly post something.

Michael N. Fried said...

I am also glad to see this posting and to read Faith's remarks. By the way, I wrote the comment on Dreamers Rise, and, if you have not already guessed, Janice is my sister (and an extremely talented illustrator herself!)

Michael Leddy said...

The Internet is such a small world. :) I find this kind of thing wonderful.

Michael N. Fried said...