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The Book of Numbers by Robert Deane Pharr (Doubleday, 1969)

Contributed by Garrison Martin on Jun 26th, 2020. Artwork published in .
The Book of Numbers by Robert Deane Pharr (Doubleday, 1969) 1
Source: Doubleday & Co., Inc.. Image by Scott Lindberg‏. License: All Rights Reserved.

Robert Deane Pharr’s debut novel The Books of Numbers tells the tale of two black men, Dave and Blueboy, traveling waiters who establish themselves as numbers runners in a fictionalized 1930s Richmond, Virginia. Published to great acclaim in 1969, The Book of Numbers centers on powerful themes of truth and illusion, myth and legend, and vividly conveys a sense of African American life on the periphery of white society. In 1973, it was made into a movie.

Seymour Chwast designed the book jacket for the original Doubleday & Co., Inc printing. The title is set in Filmsense. The multiline face originated at Push Pin Studios in 1967 and is credited both to Chwast and his then studio partner Milton Glaser. Filmsense’s line pattern is echoed in the concentric circles that highlight the protagonists.

From Encyclopedia Virginia:

Robert Deane Pharr [1916–1992] was an acclaimed author of five novels, the first of which, The Book of Numbers (1969), was published while he was a fifty-three-year-old waiter in New York. Setting out to be “a black Sinclair Lewis,” Pharr focused on the harsh yet vibrant living conditions faced by countless African Americans in urban America from the 1930s to the 1970s. Critics such as Susan Lardner of the New Yorker celebrated Pharr for his “tough, emotion-laden dialogue” and the profound sense of pain and loss that permeates his work

The Book of Numbers by Robert Deane Pharr (Doubleday, 1969) 2
Source: License: All Rights Reserved.


  • Filmsense
  • Futura




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1 Comment on “The Book of Numbers by Robert Deane Pharr (Doubleday, 1969)”

  1. For what it’s worth, this sample of Filmsense is reproduced in Graphis no. 143 from 1970, with a caption that reads “Art Directors: Seymour Chwast/Milton Glaser”.

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