The Original Art and Layout of Living on the Earth is for Sale!

Cover layout with bleed borders and the original drawings for Living on the Earth.

Wow, here they are, the original drawings from which all of the books, CDs, t-shirts, fabrics, magazine illustrations and other printed images from Living on the Earth were born. Partially lettered in Press Type, yellowed with age, and stained with rubber cement and correction fluid (ah, the tools of the graphic design trade back in the late ’60’s), they are wabi-sabi, shabby-chic, framable, and absolutely authentic.

I will be having a gallery show at which the entire layout will be auctioned during the months of May and June 2008 at the Kurkku Arts and Environmental Center in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan. 

I created the drawings, lettering and layout for the first edition of Living on the Earth in 1969 and 1970, at the ages of 19, 20 and 21. The Bookworks, Bay Area distributor Book People’s publishing imprint, released it in September 1970 as their second title ever. They sold out the initial printing of 10,000 copies in two weeks. The Whole Earth Catalog’s review: “This could be the best book in this catalog. It is a book for people. If you are a person, it is for you.”

In April 1971, Vintage Books/Random House released the second edition, which became the first paperback ever on the New York Times Bestseller List. Publishers Weekly had never seen a book design like this one before, and published a handlettered review with illustrations from the book to note this. Dozens of books with derivative book designs, illustrations and themes appeared on the market within a year, and continue to appear to this day.

I am preparing to sell the original layout as an archival manuscript (I retain the copyright of the content), and thought you might like to see what the artwork looks like now, after 37 years in the same little blue suitcase inwhich I delivered it to The Bookworks in the spring of 1970. It’s moved to Hawaii from California with me twice.

The pages in the center of the book aren’t as yellowed as the cover and front pages, probably because they weren’t as subject to the acidity of the packaging in which they were stored. The rubber cement used in layout work in those pre-computer days left stains, as did the white correction fluid.

When I updated the information in Living on the Earth for the Villard/Random House third edition in 1999 (which, with minor changes, was also the 4th edition in 2003), I clearly could not re-use the original layout, so I took apart two pristine copies of the Vintage/Random House second edition and used the pages to lay out the revised edition, still using Rapidograph pen, scissors, rubber cement and correction fluid as I did in 1970.

One of the most noted updates in the revised edition was the layout on marijuana and hemp. I realized soon after moving to Maui in 1974 and inhaling the extra-strong product available there, that it made my nasal passages swell shut, obliging me to breathe through my mouth and wonder how long until this uncomfortable side effect would wear off. So I quit smoking pot. When I updated the text twenty-five years later, I had to find and interview someone who still grew it commercially to improve the instructions. I also learned the usefulness of hemp, even without the medicinal effects of tetrahydrocannabinol.  Hemp preceeded petroleum as the material of choice for manufacturing almost everything useful. Canvas, which propelled ships across the ocean, derives its name from cannibis. Some environmentalists think we’ll be back to using hemp on a large scale after Peak Oil.

Living on the Earth was initially shelved in the Library of Congress under Home Economics, Handicrafts and Outdoor Living, but the 2000 Random House edition was categorized under Spirituality and Healthy Living, and the 2003 Gibbs Smith edition as a Reference Book. All of the above, would be my guess. I didn’t create it for a publisher. I made it as a gift to my fellow communards at Wheeler Ranch. However, the Universe had other plans.

Update as of 2021:  Many of the original page layouts, framed in handmade driftwood frames created by master craftsman Yugi Kamioka, some with mat boards bearing my new additional illustrations, have been sold at a series of gallery shows in Japan.  The cover layout hangs in the tea ceremony house of rock producer Takeshi Kobayashi.   Fashion designers Kaoriko Ago Wada and Aya Noguchi, both of whom produced fashion lines printed with the pages of Living on the Earth, have framed pages hanging in their homes.  Novelist Yoshimoto Banana bought framed pages, too, remembering how much she enjoyed the book in her childhood. 

Here is a link to a video of an art exhibition of the framed page layouts at Gallery Speak For, in Daikanyama,
Shibuya, Tokyo.

The sound track is an improvised piece called “Everything is Flowing” from the album Songs from Being of the Sun, which Ramón Sender Barayón recorded in 1973, of himself on zither and me on guitar, and both of us singing.