Matthew Leibowitz came into his own as a graphic designer after World War 2. Born in 1918, during the 1940s worked for several big American companies through an agency and then freelance. He did some 78 rpm sleeves for RCA around 1947 but it is his work for Caedmon Records which really saw him honing his style for the label across around two dozen sleeves.
His first commission was probably The Red Badge of Courage sleeve above (TC 1040) around 1955. It is no surprise that Modernism was a big influence on his style but his output for Caedmon is also astonishingly contemporary at times. On this cover the bright red background gives a real contrast to the blue of the cannon.
While he used a number of styles for Caedmon, a lot of their commissions were for spoken word anthologies of older poetry and literature, and here Leibowitz brought a house style to the sleeves, using vintage engravings which he photostated from old prints at the Free Library of Philadelphia (near where he lived.) But rather than swamp the covers, he had a real eye for placing just one or two chosen images perfectly, and then using sharp typography, and the four examples here show this off.
TC 0999, Palgrave’s Golden Treasury, featured Claire Bloom, Eric Portman and John Neville reading. This was one of a short lived series of U.K. versions of Caedmon albums and dates from 1958, but the cover is the same as the U.S. original.
Just two small images appear on the design, which relies on a decorative font and engraved capital letter. Leibowitz usually added his (very modest) sleeve credit in a sans serif font up the side of the cover and the label name as well.
He would often use a white background, as on the next two covers. TC 1097, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, read by a cast including Joan Greenwood, Stanley Holloway and others, was issued late in 1958. Here using the original book illustrations was a natural, although lesser designers might have been tempted to commission new work. These are nicely balanced and tinted, with the card suits just referenced across the whole.
Lastly comes Boswell’s London Journal (TC 1093, 1959, read by Anthony Quayle) which again captures the spirit of the material nicely, with a glamorous bewigged lady of the times and a carousing pair of gentlemen summing up the often raunchy nature of the work. The use of colour is just about perfect, and again the typography is very clever.
As far as I am aware, this was one of his last jobs for the label. Leibowitz went on to work for many of the world’s biggest companies, generating material which won literally hundreds of awards, but I’m unaware of any subsequent album covers. Once again Caedmon’s two founders had spotted a talent on the rise.
Sadly Leibowitz died from Leukemia in 1974 at the age of just 57.
More on ST33 about Caedmon:
Some sleeves of The Dillons for Caedmon are on a gallery on the site here;
and more details of their work here
A basic look at the Caedmon label is also on the site: