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Watch: Shirley Tucker on The Bell Jar

Shirley Tucker produced her iconic cover for Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar in the 1960s, a design that was then used again for the 50th anniversary edition.

She remembers the design process in the first interview in this video series:

Shirley Tucker on Designing The Bell Jar
Shirley Tucker on Berthold Wolpe
Shirley Tucker on Desiging Book Covers
Designing The Bell Jar

Shirley Tucker worked as a book jacket designer in Faber’s Production department from 1959 to her retirement in 1987. After studying graphic art at the Royal College, she spent several years working in Penguin’s design department (which was then headed by the distinguished German designer, Hans Schmoller). At Faber she worked alongside another great German émigré typographer, Berthold Wolpe (who created the Albertus typeface used in so many of Faber’s typographic covers). In her final decade at Faber, Shirley co-ordinated the commissioning of Faber book jackets from Pentagram (the prestigious design consultancy).

The interview with Shirley is revealing: she talks not just about the cover design process at Faber and how she came up with the idea for The Bell Jar, but also about what it was like to encounter T. S. Eliot and to work alongside Wolpe. Shirley was filmed sitting at the famous old boardroom table that once sat in Faber’s original Russell Square offices but now takes centre stage in our Bloomsbury House archive. It’s surrounded by shelves of file copies of books published through the decades, from which she pulls out an array of her favourite covers.

Tucker’s design was utilised again for the beautiful hardback commemorative edition to celebrate the 50th year of publication Plath’s dark, perceptive, and groundbreaking novel, see below.

This article was first published on the Faber blog in 2013.

Buy the Book
Sylvia Plath
£10.99

Beautiful hardback commemorative edition to celebrate the 50th year of publication of Sylvia Plath’s dark, perceptive, and groundbreaking novel, The Bell Jar, about a young woman’s descent into mental illness in 1950s America.