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University of Texas at Austin

John Calder Publishers:

An Inventory of Its Art Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: John Calder Publishers
Title: John Calder Publishers Art Collection
Dates: 1950s-1960s
Extent: 1 box (55 items)
Abstract: The collection consists of book jacket designs for works by authors, such as Arthur Adamov, Samuel Beckett, and Marguerite Duras, published by John Calder Publishers (also known as John Calder, Ltd.) or Calder & Boyars during the 1950s and 1960s.
Call Number: Art Collection AR-00132
Language: English
Access: Open for research. To make an appointment or to reserve Art Collection materials, please email Visual Materials Reference staff. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials.
Use Policies: Ransom Center collections may contain material with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in the collections without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Ransom Center and The University of Texas at Austin assume no responsibility.
Restrictions on Use: Authorization for publication is given on behalf of the University of Texas as the owner of the collection and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder which must be obtained by the researcher. For more information please see the Ransom Center's Open Access and Use Policies.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation John Calder Publishers Art Collection (AR-00132). Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.
Acquisition: Purchases, 1969-1970
Processed by: Ransom Center Staff; Jill Morena, 2018

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

For over half a century, publisher John Calder (British, born Canada, 1927-2018) brought modern and experimental literature to English language readers through John Calder (Publishers) Ltd. (1949-1964; 1975-2007) and Calder & Boyars, his partnership with Marion Boyars that lasted from 1964 to 1975. Calder was born in Montreal on January 25, 1927. After returning from his studies in political economy at Zurich University in 1949, Calder realized that wartime shortages had resulted in many unpublished or untranslated European novels, and he resolved to rectify this absence in the publishing market. Calder founded John Calder Publishers in 1949 while simultaneously working at his family's timber firm and attempting to get the publishing company off the ground. Beginning in 1955, he devoted his energies exclusively to publishing. Early publications included translations of classic works in French, German, Italian, and Russian, as well as books on music, opera, and theater. The English-language publication of two accounts of torture during the Algerian war, Henri Alleg's The Question in 1958 and the collection of testimonies, The Gangrene, in 1959, brought considerable attention to the company. Calder would publish many significant contemporary writers, including Samuel Beckett, Marguerite Duras, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and Nathalie Sarraute, and the absurdist theater of playwrights such as Eugène Ionesco and Fernando Arrabal. In addition to publishing, Calder also organized writer's conferences, arts and music festivals, theater companies, and defended literature charged with obscenity in the British courts, most famously for the publications of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer and Hubert Selby, Jr.'s Last Exit to Brooklyn. Calder continued to write and publish into the 21st century, and penned books on Beckett, Jean Arp, and the mid-century Paris literary scene, in addition to a memoir and three volumes of his own poetry. Alessandro Gallenzi acquired John Calder Publishers in 2007 and continues to publish its titles under the imprint Alma Books. Calder died in Edinburgh on August 13, 2018.


Calder, John. "John Calder (Publishers) Limited." In Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 112 (1991): 48-50. British Literary Publishing Houses, 1881-1965. Anderson, edited by Patricia J. and Jonathan Rose. Detroit, London: Gale Research International Limited, 1991.
Gallenzi, Alessandro. "John Calder Obituary." The Guardian, August 21, 2018.
Sandomir, Richard. "John Calder, British Publisher Who Fought Censorship, Dies at 91." The New York Times, August 19, 2018.

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of book jacket designs for various published titles. Items include multi-layered, fragile, mixed media mechanicals that are often heavily annotated, print proofs for book jackets, and near-final or finished book jackets. The collection is organized alphabetically by the author of the literary work. If there is more than one item for a particular title, the different stages of the design are listed beneath the author's name. The majority of designs are by Donald Green and John Sewell, who are the only known artists in the collection. A third artist's name, Gross-Andre, is transcribed from the name as it appears on the book jacket.

Related Material

Publishing files and correspondence related to authors represented in this collection, among others, can be found in the John Calder Publishers Records (MS-02194).

Index Terms


Adamov, Arthur.
Alarcón, Pedro Antonio de, 1833-1891.
Arrabal, Fernando.
Beckett, Samuel, 1906-1989.
Calder, John, 1927-2018.
Chekhov, Anton Pavlovich, 1860-1904.
Droste-Hülshoff, Annette von, 1797-1848.
Duras, Marguerite.
Green, Donald.
Lockspeiser, Edward, 1905-1973.
Higgins, Aidan, 1927-2015.
Hobson, Harold.
Hoffmann, E. T. A. (Ernst Theodor Amadeus), 1776-1822.
Ionesco, Eugène.
Maltz, Albert, 1908-1985.
Mérimée, Prosper, 1803-1870.
Pieyre de Mandiargues, André, 1909-1991.
Sarraute, Nathalie.
Sewell, John.
Storm, Theodor, 1817-1888.


Book jackets--1950-1970.
Literature, Experimental.
Literature publishing.
Theater--20th century.

Document Types

Book jackets.
Electrophotographic prints.
Gelatin silver prints.
Mechanicals (camera-ready copy).

Corporate Names

John Calder Publishers.

Container List