Philip K. Dick paperback covers (Panther Science Fiction)
Over almost two decades, Roslyn Gothic graced dozens of covers with works by the writer, building a visual identity for the master of dystopian fiction.
Designed by Harry Winters, Roslyn Gothic was released by Visual Graphics Corporation (VGC) in 1972, to be used with their Photo Typositor, a popular display typesetting machine of the phototype era. There were three styles; Medium, Bold, and Outline. The sans serif of condensed proportions is infused with some traits that seem to harken back to Art Nouveau, or Jugendstil: counters in d, g, or p are tear-shaped, e has a diagonal bar while the top arm of K is vertical, some stems in m, n, u are slightly curved, A is asymmetrical, and G is pointed at the bottom. Several of these features can also be found in German typefaces from around 1900, like Sezessions-Grotesk or Skulptur. By giving his design a large x-height and tight letterspacing, Winters turned these influences into a quintessential 1970s display typeface. With its punchy yet slightly alien-looking shapes, Roslyn Gothic became a popular choice on book covers in the science fiction genre.
As it was common with other publishers, too, Panther didn’t use a single typeface for all of their science fiction releases, but rather assigned a certain typeface to each author, building multiple sub-identities to increase their recognizability: Kabel Black for Asimov, City for Ursula K. LeGuin, American Uncial for Brian W. Aldiss, etc. The face chosen for Philip K. Dick was Roslyn Gothic Bold. The first of Dick’s paperbacks with Roslyn Gothic on the cover were issued in 1975. This choice was maintained at least until 1992.
Established in 1952, Panther Books Ltd. was a British publisher specializing in paperback fiction. By 1968, it had been acquired by Granada Group Ltd., making it a subsidiary company of Granada Publishing Ltd., and Panther Science Fiction a Granada imprint. Some of the shown books were published under other Granada imprints, including Triad Panther, or Grafton.
In 1990, Garrett Boge of LetterPerfect digitized the boldest weight as Roslyn Gothic LP Bold. Mecanorma’s digital version, Roslyn, covers all three styles. Released by Red Rooster in 2010, Ryder Gothic is a reinterpretation by Steve Jackaman and Ashley Muir that adds a new light weight and several alternate glyphs. [There’s a fourth digitization by Panache Graphics, see comments.]
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5 Comments on “Philip K. Dick paperback covers (Panther Science Fiction)”
Isn’t it? The longer one looks, the more glyphs pop up that are bonkers. I would have assumed that you can’t really have pointed terminals with a chunky and compact extrabold. And if you had a pointed N, the A would need to be pointed too. Or that you can’t get away with (more or less) flipping the M to make a W. But no – it all falls into place just nicely.
That’s cool, thank you, Alexis! That’s the 1988 edition with cover art by Chris Foss. Your image also shows The Cosmic Puppets (1985, cover art by Steve Crisp), fifth in the first row, which is likewise missing from the article.
The shown selection is not exhaustive; at some point I stopped. Among the omitted ones are several from the 1990s where the type is shown smaller. These include The Father-Thing (1990), Second Variety (1990), Beyond Lies the Wub (1990), The Days of Perky Pat (1991), We Can Remember It for You Wholesale (1991), and the 1992 printings of A Maze of Death and The Penultimate Truth (all with cover art by Chris Moore).