In 1976 I was given the task of redesigning the covers for Anthony Powell’s epic, A Dance to the Music of Time. This twelve-novel sequence chronicles the lives of more than 300 characters in a unique evocation of 20th-century life in England. At the time I was working as the art director of Fontana Paperbacks and Powell's books originally had photographic covers like this:
Not my cup of tea but they did their job. Anyway, what to do? Powell had created such an array of memorable characters that I thought we could select key individuals for each cover. And that’s where Mark Boxer came in.
Not only was he the art director of Queen magazine, the founding editor of The Sunday Times Magazine and the editor of Tatler but he was also a formidable cartoonist, with a very endearing minimalist style:
Noël Coward by Mark Boxer ink and coloured crayon, 1983 NPG
He also cut a very suave figure: tall and swathed in hand-tailored suits and often seen in the company of Anna Ford, a highly desirable newsreader at the time (whom he later married). The pair cut a very attractive couple:
Anna Ford and Boxer
Boxer loved the commission and spent a lot of time perfecting each character for the covers, with a lot of consultation with Anthony Powell himself.
The upshot was a wonderful set of classic covers, which I made into a double boxset. They won a D&AD Silver Award in 1978. Sadly I haven’t got the boxes or a full set of the covers. But here are a few that I have tracked down:
They continued to be used for many years after I left Fontana but were slowly degraded by increasingly insensitive typography. Sadly Mark Boxer died of a brain tumour in 1988 at the very young age of 57: a great loss.