Edicions Proa, founded in 1928 in Badalona at a time of popular culture and athenaeums, is an exponent of the standard of Catalan publishing in the 1930s that came to the fore by way of an exhibition and the illustrated book: La propera festa del llibre serà de color taronja! Cinquanta anys del rellançament d’Edicions Proa (The Forthcoming Book Festival Will Be Orange! Fifty Years of Relaunching Edicions Proa). We have retrieved book jackets and advertising materials, largely unpublished, and reconstructed the process of creating the brand and the catalogue that would precede Penguin Books by seven years. It also shared the same philosophy: bringing literary classics and modern authors to every home with quality editions at an affordable price.

Edicions Proa’s most famous collection, Biblioteca A Tot Vent, used orange to entice – a symbol designed by the artist Josep Obiols, with a Bodoni typeface integrated into a highly classical composition. Books from other collections caused surprise through their bold graphic art, incorporating the Futura typeface, created in 1927, and Grotesk Lichte, in 1924, to transmit the idea of modernity on typographical and illustrated dust jackets. Yet we still don’t know the name of the designers. One of its biggest successes was the Catalan version of In Western nicht Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front), which came to sell 35,000 copies. Children’s books also spring to mind, particularly Petits contes negres per als infants dels blancs (Little Black Stories for Little White Children), by Blaise Cendrars. It was published in 1929, one year after the original edition in French, and designed and illustrated by Joan Miró’s friend E.C. Ricart.

Edicions Proa continued publishing in exile from Perpignan and returned to Barcelona in 1964 under the patronage of Joan B. Cendrós, manufacturer of the Floïd aftershave lotion. This new era featured the involvement of two pre-eminent designers: Ismael Balenyà (the creator of book jackets in a Pop Art style, rivalling those designed by Jordi Fornas for Edicions 62) and Julià Mumbrú (who also designed the logo and the first collections of the Anagrama publishing house).

By Julià Guillamon