Entertainment: The Volk Corporation

"Harry Volk Jr. was a former journalist who decided to start publishing all-purpose illustrations on a wide range of topics for use in magazines, newspapers, and other publications—he worked with a variety of mostly anonymous commercial artists to create these from the late 1950's to the 1980's. One of his frequent known collaborators was illustrator Thomas B. Sawyer (who later in life was also head writer of the classic CBS series, Murder, She Wrote). In Thomas's memoir, he says that "Harry became my favorite client, both as a person and because of the creative freedom he gave me... he'd tell me he needed various spots for one or another of his clipbooks, on this or that subject. I could then decide what I’d draw and, without showing him pencil sketches, I’d render them with any kind of even marginally reproducible line, from ink to pencil, charcoal or crayon, and send Harry the finished art." (from Alter Ego 77 as reprinted here) What I find so fascinating about these, in addition to the craftsmanship on display, is how much each cover tells you about the culture and visual tropes of the time in which it was made. You can see what was being written about, and how those stories were told. For example, note the illustration of a space walk on the 1969 "Science" booklet, or compare the all-white, all-male office on display on the 1967 "Executives" with the 1981 "Office." —Elizabeth Goodspeed