With a new entry in the New Yorker cartoon collection in the market place, the weighty and curious New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons, I thought it might be time to swing the spotlight another way — to a favorite New Yorker cartoon-related anthology, The New Yorker Album Of Drawings 1925 – 1975; a proven time-tested book that never ever fails to thrill and inform — I learn something whenever I look through it.
My collection of New Yorker cartoon anthologies began with this book, given to me the year it was published, two years before I began contributing to the magazine. I’ve spent more time with it than any book I ever had in school. If I was teaching a class about New Yorker cartoons, this would be required reading/viewing. As you’d expect, the book is a greatest cartoon hits from the magazine’s first 50 years, but it also thoughtfully digs into the archives for what could be the best representative work by the non-hits artists.
It’s not just the selection of work that lifts this anthology to a higher plane, it’s the balance of the work as well. All credit for that balance goes to The New Yorker‘s Carmine Peppe, (“the fabled Carmine Peppe” as Roger Angell tagged him). Mr. Peppe is credited with the book’s “design and layout.” That makes sense as he was head of the magazine’s editorial make-up department since 1932. He was also credited with design and layout of every anthology beginning with the 25th Anniversary Album, published in 1950 (I think it’s safe to assume he also designed, uncredited, the Albums that were published since 1932). Mr. Peppe’s roots ran as deep as anyone’s at the magazine, having joined the New Yorker a few months into its run in 1925. Mr. Peppe will forever be linked to Jack Ziegler as it was Peppe who famously held up running Mr. Ziegler’s first drawings when he broke into the magazine in 1974. Mr. Ziegler told Richard Gehr in I Only Read It For the Cartoons, “He [Peppe] didn’t like my work, apparently…”
In the magazine’s obit for Mr. Peppe in 1985, William Shawn had this to say (in part) about Mr. Peppe’s substantial contribution to the magazine:
Carmine Peppe had the hands of a master craftsman, and he had the eye and the soul of an artist. He lived with love at home, and he worked with love at his demanding job…
His aesthetic instinct for what drawing should appear on what page and what its size on the page should ideally be was faultless. If, say, a drawing was an eighth of an inch too wide, he saw it as jumping off the page, and he was right. His meticulousness, his precision, his attention to detail were fanatical. In the last analysis, it was Carmine who determined, early in our history, how the pages of The New Yorker should look, how the magazine as a whole should look. Since what he designed for us was appropriate to our intentions and was classic, we stayed with what he gave us.