Home > Architecture & Urban Design, Graphics & Illustration, People, Sci Fi, Things I Like... > Out of This World & Frank R Paul at the British Library

Out of This World & Frank R Paul at the British Library

I recently went to the British Library to see the Out of This World exhibition. Its pretty good, very book/ paper based (as you might expect) but with lots of beautiful book jackets, magazine covers and illustrations spanning several hundred years. In my opinion however, all the really lovely ones are from the roughly 50 years between 1920 and 1970.

One aspect that shone out, and a name I had not come across before (although I, like most fans of Sci Fi, am familiar with his style) was the work of Frank R Paul.

Paul (1884-1963) was a Viennese émigré and an architect by training. He was a gifted technical artist, and had spent most of his early professional life producing science and building based illustrations mostly for magazines.

When Hugo Gernsback, the man responsible in 1926, for publishing “Amazing Stories”, the worlds first Science Fiction magazine, asked him to stretch his imagination for the cover art of his new publication, Paul rose to the challenge and over the next 30 years or so created some truly memorable Science Fiction images, in the process, almost single handedly setting the tone of the whole genre for many decades to follow, influencing many young readers who would later become masters of the genre, Arthur C Clark, Ray Bradbury and Philip K Dick to name but 3…

Frank R Paul is also credited as being the first person to illustrate in colour, both a flying saucer (November 1929) and an orbiting Space Station (August 1929) and whilst his style can’t really be seen as being anything but dated through todays eyes, his brightly coloured flights of fancy still amaze and enthrall…

There is an amazingly concise collection of Paul’s cover art here if you fancy some more.

As an aside, it’s the third time I’ve been to the British Library since Christmas, and do you know what, I really like it. Designed by Colin St. John Wilson in the mid 1970’s, the enormous structure took more than 25 years to build. To say that it generated mixed feelings when it finally opened in 1997 would be something of an understatement (the Idiot Prince’s description of it “looking like the assembly hall of a secret police academy” being the most often quoted).

It was however nominated for the 1998 Stirling Prize (sadly losing out to Fosters RAF Duxford Museum) and I would suggest that the building has mellowed and improved with age. The courtyard to the front offers a generous and sheltered place for a coffee, and the building itself is alive with light and people, working perfectly as one London’s finest contemporary Public Buildings.

  1. September 15, 2011 at 12:18

    Would you be interested in exchanging links?

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