4. Camus & Co.

Geometric abstraction and the first set of ten Fontana Modern Masters in 1970-71.

Oliver Bevan's cover art for the first ten Fontana Modern Masters drew directly
on his work with rearrangeable tiles and isometric projections of a cube, but now
he refined his ideas further by making all the pieces equilateral triangles. These were arranged to form regular hexagons and coloured in tesselating patterns of orange, yellow and emerald green, with vertical stripes in a fourth colour
– red, purple, blue or magenta – that varied from cover to cover.
keylines for the first ten covers an isometric projection of a cube an isometric projection of a cube
Keylines for the first ten covers (left) and two isometric projections of a cube.
Shading creates the illusions of depth and a cube that is either open or closed.
However, there was even more to these covers than that, as the blurb on the back of the books revealed:
Cover painting by Oliver Bevan. The cover of this book is one of a set of ten, comprising the covers of the first ten titles of the Modern Masters series. The set combines to form the whole painting, and can be arranged in an unlimited number of different patterns.
It was a stroke of marketing genius. The covers were a cut-up, ten 'tiles' of a larger painting that enticed the reader to buy all ten books, mug up on Camus & Co, and then create their own Op Art à la Vasarely. Instead of gathering dust on a shelf, the books could be framed and hung on a wall, like Bevan's Connections at the ICA.

Marcuse by Alasdair MacIntyre, 1970 Guevara by Andrew Sinclair, 1970 Lévi-Strauss by Edmund Leach, 1970 Fanon by David Caute, 1970 Camus by Conor Cruise O'Brien, 1970
Chomsky by John Lyons, 1970 Lukács by George Lichtheim, 1970 McLuhan by Jonathan Miller, 1971 Wittgenstein by David Pears, 1971 Orwell by Raymond Williams, 1971
The first ten Fontana Modern Masters arranged as per Bevan's original 'Cascade'.
Spectacular cascading displays of the books appeared overnight in bookshop windows and according to the series editor Frank Kermode, 'young people bought them by the handful'. It is easy to see why, for these short introductions to the 'gurus of the time' and their unapologetically attention-grabbing covers brought together the dominant trends in art, thought and culture.

The cover concept was a brilliant idea, but the set-of-ten incentive suffered a setback when the eleventh title, Joyce, used the same cut-up cover as Guevara.

Joyce by John Gross, 1971
The eleventh book in the first set of ten.