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George Salter papers

Identifier: Wing-Modern-MS-Salter

Scope and Content of the Collection

Professional and personal papers of George Salter, primarily including artwork, correspondence, and printed materials relating to book jacket design projects spanning from the 1920s to the 1960s. Design project job files include prints, maps, preliminary and original sketches and drawings, and pen trials from both his American and German careers. Salter or his wife Agnes Salter gave most of his American design projects job numbers which are mostly chronological. United States design projects are split between Series 4 and Series 8 due to size. Collection also includes by and about Salter, notes from classes and lectures, correspondence to Salter and to his wife Agnes.

Books designed by Salter are separately cataloged as Wing folio ZP 983 .S171 and include over 220 volumes. See also Wing folio ZP 983 .S17 for Salter’s own handwritten log of his design jobs. An Info File for the collection is available in the Special Collections Reading Room and includes the original paper inventory.


  • Creation: 1919-1980



Materials are in English and German.

Conditions Governing Access

The George Salter papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The George Salter papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

Biography of George Salter

German-American calligrapher and designer.

George Salter (Oct. 5, 1897 – Oct. 31, 1967) was a German-born and, from 1940 on, American calligrapher, book and book jacket designer, illustrator, and teacher who revolutionized the world of book jacket design. He is known for his ability to capture the contents and essence of a book on its cover, demonstrating this skill on thousands of design projects.

George Salter (born Georg Salter) was born on October 5, 1897 in Bremen, Germany. His interest in the visual arts began in music and theater with set and stage design. After serving in the German army during World War I as a mapmaker, he studied set painting and design at the Kunstgewerbe- und Handwerkerschule (School of Applied Arts and Crafts) in Berlin. After a few years of professional set and stage designing outside of the capital, he returned to Berlin to focus on book jacket design in 1927. In the twelve years spent as a professional in Germany (1922-1934), Salter designed for thirty-three German publishers and produced over 350 designs, most of which were book jackets. His style differed from his contemporaries, which speaks to his popularity. He strayed from the art-nouveau designs that dominated the early 20th century book market. His style encompassed a number of different design models and used an innovative blend of typography and illustration.

Towards the end of his time in Germany, Salter was the director of the Commercial Art Department at the Höhere Graphische Fachschule (Institute of Graphic Arts) in Berlin. However, with the rise of Hitler and the National Socialist Party, it became clear that Salter was no longer welcome in his own country and he emigrated to America in November of 1934.

In the U.S., he established himself as a talented and coveted book jacket designer, working closely with a number of important publishers ranging to best sellers from Alfred A. Knopf to serial mystery magazines put out by Lawrence E. Spivak. His distinctive style continued to develop as did his reputation and the respect of his peers and colleagues. He also resumed teaching, now at Cooper Union in New York City where he taught for 30 years.

He became a naturalized U.S. citizen on September 19, 1940 and changed his name from Georg to George Salter. In 1942 he married Agnes Veronica O’Shea and the couple adopted their daughter, Janet Salter Rosenburg, in 1946.

Salter’s career in America was illustrious, busy, and successful, lasting from his arrival in New York in 1934 until his death 33 years later in 1967. He remains one of the most highly regarded calligraphers and book jacket designers in America because of his unique ability to capture the contents of a book through a cover design.


95.8 Linear Feet (10 boxes and 56 oversize boxes)


Prominent German-American calligrapher and one of the most admired designers of book jackets in the United States. Papers consist chiefly of art work, correspondence, contracts, and printed materials relating to design projects executed in New York along with earlier German design projects. Also includes correspondence with American and German colleagues (some in German), most notably Walter Brudi, Kurt Schauer, E.F.H Schneidler, and Jeanyee Wong; drafts of articles by Salter; papers relating to curriculum at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art; files of the Book Jacket Designers Guild which Salter founded; articles about Salter; and letters of condolence to his widow, Agnes Salter.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: About George Salter, 1930-1980
Box 1
Series 2: Writings and Notes, 1930s-1967
Box 2
Series 3: Correspondence, 1919-1978
Boxes 3-6
Series 4: United States Design Projects, 1934-1967
Boxes 7-29
Series 5: Miscellaneous United States Design Projects, 1935-1967
Boxes 29-32a
Series 6: Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Mercury Publications, 1942-1957
Boxes 33-35b
Series 7: German Design Projects, 1926-1935
Boxes 36-38
Series 8: Oversize United States Design Projects, 1935-1967
Boxes 39-63

Collection Stack Location

4a 30 6-8


Purchase, Agnes Salter, 1973.

Processed by

Paul Shaw, Libby Kingseed, Cathy Atwood (1979-1985); Paul Gehl (1997); Georgia Fowler and Catherine Grandgeorge (2019).

Inventory of the George Salter papers, 1919-1980
Georgia Fowler
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States