James Spanfeller’s illustrations

Every time I go to Ohio, I make a point to stop at Dark Star Books, a great used bookshop in Yellow Springs I’ve blogged about before. My latest trip yielded more good finds: two books by Lynne Tillman, Svevo’s Zeno’s Conscience (trans. William Weaver), Stanley Elkin’s The Living End, and Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes (Harper & Row, 1968). As soon as I glanced at the cover, I recognized the painstakingly detailed and ornate artwork of James Spanfeller.


 A Fan's Notes - F Exley - Spanfeller's cover art


I recognized the style, and the face, from the incredible dust jacket of Hind’s Kidnap: A Pastoral on Familiar Airs (Harper & Row, 1969). Click on the image, zoom in, and look closely; you’ll see grasshoppers, pupae, birds, and more there in Hind.




Both these books were produced under the editorship of legendary editor David Segal, who was at Harper & Row before moving to Knopf in about 1970. A little light research shows that James Spanfeller also did these other book illustrations — each quite exceptional, I think. Photos culled from a Google Image search.


Thanatos Syndrome - W Percy - James Spanfeller cover art


Walker Percy’s The Thanatos Syndrome (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1987).


Visions of Gerard - J Kerouac - James Spanfeller cover art


Jack Kerouac’s Visions of Gerard (Farrar, Straus, & Co, 1963).

I also see, for those who are interested in digging deeper, that Spanfeller did illustrations for Pages from Cold Island by Frederick Exley, Little Men by Louisa May Alcott, Quill by Robert Steiner, and various other books by Larry Niven, May Sarton, and Julia Cunningham. Various other great illustrations are online here.

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  • Jim was a teacher of mine with a passion for spreading the love of this technique!


    • Hi Marilyn,

      Interesting! Where was that?

      Best wishes,

  • Jim was a teacher of mine also. I went to New York Pheonix School of Design on Lexington and 30th, NYC. 1971-1973.
    I was a fashion illustration major. At the time, gauche, watercolor, charcoal and pastels were the mediums used for fashion illustrations. I was more of a “hard line” kind of illustrator (pen and in, marker). Jim’s class (and his technique) definitely changed my way of illustrating. Stipple became my favorite way to illustrate folds, fabric texture, etc. I loved my school because the teachers were all working in the field that they were teaching. It wasn’t until I graduated that I discovered how well know he was in the illustration world.


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