Philosophy & Good Design at the Thrift Store

Thrift stores are a funny thing. Each time I walk into one, I'm both appalled and exhilarated. Appalled by the excessive junk that we dispose of on a daily basis, and exhilarated by the potential of finding something overlooked and forgotten. The exhilaration of possibility is what drives me. Wednesday, I walked into a thrift store that we haven't visited for quite some time and I stumbled upon some wonderfully forgotten paperbacks on philosophy and theory. Forgotten textbooks, discarded after a yard sale, perhaps. I wasn't actually seeking out these particular books, but the covers were what piqued my interest. Nice, simple graphic covers, with bold colors and text. I guess you could say on a philosophical level that I didn't find these books, but rather they found me. How profound.

The Worldly Philosophers
The Worldly Philosophers by Robert L. Heilbroner. No mention of cover designer. Simon & Schuster, ©1953, 1961.

Physics and Philosophy
Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science by Werner Heisenberg. Cover design by Guy Fleming. Harper & Row, NY. ©1958, this edition 1962.

This last one isn't on philosophy, but was found in the same section:

The Enduring Art of Japan
The Enduring Art of Japan by Langdon Warner. Cover design by Roy Kuhlman. Grove Press, NY. ©1952.

Not sure what was erased in that upper right-hand section—original price, perhaps? Instead of photoshopping it out, I decided to leave it be.


  1. I love those covers!!! Sometimes when I go to the old bookstores... I find these great cold war book covers. My university library likes to dispose of those books so I have a little collection of russian books... says a lot about the age... and the age in reference to design. Anyways, I really enjoyed those book covers. neat-o!!

  2. I understand your feelings exactly about going into the thrift stores. I have known so many people to out right hate shopping thrift stores. Not me though, there is always cool stuff to find. Just like these great books. Still amazes me how simple the art and illustration used to be, but yet, these still grab my attention more than all this new fangled jazz that is used for marketing today. Thanks for letting us see.

  3. It was great speaking with you today!! I hope you found some good books :D!! Matte

  4. Ward, Thanks for posting the example of cover design by Guy Fleming. FYI, he also did the cover and endpapers (same design) for "No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Harper & Row, 1968. It is the author's first book and his firstwork published in English. Do you know of other work by him?
    Love your blog. I am interest in the arts of the book and related topics.

    David R. Anderson, Santa FE