johnminnion.com

Book jackets

I never did much book work. In fact I believe I wasted a considerable amount of time (eg most of the 1970s) trying to persuade book publishers to take on ideas of varying merit that I had. It’s simply not the way it works, and to this day my heart sinks when someone starts telling me of a book they have lovingly put together and it just needs a few illustrations… . Oh, and a publisher.

However, I was asked to do the odd book jacket and for that I am very grateful. Because I love books: that is, I love the look of them, the typography on and inside them, the illustrations and the jackets. I also try and read them sometimes.

My first jacket (1974), a commission entirely due to the author of this imaginative children’s story being a friend.
Astonishingly, the jacket won a National Book League award and was reproduced in the Bookseller. Wow, I’ve arrived! I thought. I hadn’t of course.
As well as illustrating on the front and inside, I was allowed to design the type for this book. I got enthusiastically busy with my letraset. That ultra-tight cramming together of capital letters looks terribly claustrophobic now, but it was the style of the time (1979).
I illustrated this book right through. Sadly I fell out with the elderly authors, who were mortified by my drawing of Prince Charles blowing his nose on a union jack handkerchief.

‘I’m a fountain-pen man,’ said Ned Sherrin, appalled that another caricaturist had drawn him at a typewriter. This enjoyable anthology led to the unexpected bonus of PLR cheques.
I loved Billy Liar so Keith Waterhouse was a bit of a hero.
Carl Flesch was a lovely old man who invited me to dinner and beguiled me with stories of musicians who had called round to see his famous violinist father. A delightful book too.
It was a bit of a surprise to be rung up by a publisher and told that an author had demanded that a Minnion caricature of him be commissioned. I was so flattered, I found I had halved my fee by the end of the phonecall.
Not just a full-colour back and front illustration, but also my name on the back alongside some of the venerated pen and ink merchants of yesteryear.