When Book Covers Came of Age

We take beautiful book covers for granted these days. Subtly or blatantly, they tell us so much about books’ content and mood. It’s hard to imagine browsing without them! But as Martin Salisbury explains in the introduction to his own beautiful book, The Illustrated Dust Jacket, 1920 to 1970, just published by Thames & Hudson, book covers were once simply protective wrappings, designed to be discarded.

Salisbury says, “It was not really until the 1920s that the jacket as we know it today became a familiar sight in bookshops and the art of book jacket design became an important branch of the applied arts and an area of opportunity for artists.” And what artists they were, from the Bloomsbury painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant to Milton Glaser, N.C. WyethRockwell Kent, Tomi Ungerer, and Edward Gorey.

We hope you’ll enjoy the following excerpt from The Illustrated Dust Jacket.

The Illustrated Dust Jacket 1920-1970

Introduction, by Martin Salisbury

In 1949, the then editor of Graphis, Charles Rosner, curated the first international exhibition of book jacket design at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Of around 8,000 jackets in the museum’s collection, 460 were selected that were “deemed to be worthy of hanging on the walls of a national museum.”  Presumably, such a statement addressed the possibility of the illustrated dust jacket’s aspirations to the status of art. The jacketed books in question were selected for the outstanding quality of the artwork that adorned them and the extent to which each one fulfilled its function in exciting interest in the book itself. The word “illustrated” of course embraces the use of a variety of forms of imagery, including photographic, hand drawn or painted. This book is particularly concerned with the last of these – the work of artists whose hand-rendered pictorial illustrations were reproduced on book jackets over a period of fifty years, from a time when publishers were beginning to see the possibilities of high-quality artwork in this context around 1920, to one when photography increasingly began to usurp the traditional artist’s skills at the end of the 1960s. The purely typographic tradition, exemplified by the work of Berthold Wolpe at Faber and Faber in these years, is also outside this book’s remit.

In Rosner’s later publication, The Growth of the Book Jacket (1949), he quotes from a deliciously pompous comment on the exhibition in the Observer newspaper by the essayist, caricaturist and general wit Sir Max Beerbohm. Writing from his home in Italy, Beerbohm pronounces:

I gather that to many other arts has now been added the art of the book-jacket, and that there is an exhibition of it in the Victoria and Albert Museum. I doubt whether, if I were in England, I would visit this, for I have in recent years seen many such exhibitions. To stand by any book-stall or to enter any book-shop is to witness a terrific sense of internecine warfare between the innumerable latest volumes, almost all of them violently vying with one another for one’s attention, fiercely striving to outdo the rest in crudity of design and color. It is rather like visiting the parrot-house in the Zoological Gardens, save that there one can at least stop one’s ears with one’s fingers, whereas here one merely wants to shut one’s eyes.

Beerbohm, by then in his late seventies, was of a generation that had seen the book jacket grow from its humble origins as a purely functional plain protective bookseller’s wrapping in the nineteenth century, to something closer to the illustrated jacket with which we are familiar today. Beerbohm was not alone in being somewhat underwhelmed by the virtues of this emerging area of the graphic arts. In his Dent Memorial Lecture in 1936, Richard de la Mare, a member of the board of Faber and Faber, commented that:

The history of the book jacket is a strange one. The wretched thing started as a piece of plain paper, wrapped round the book to protect it during its sojourn in the bookseller’s shop; but it has become this important, elaborate, not to say costly and embarrassing affair, that we know today, and of which we sometimes deplore the very existence. How much better might this mint of money, that is emptied on these ephemeral wrappers—little works of art though some of them may be—be spent upon improving the quality of the materials that are used in the making of the book itself!

Moby Dick illustrated by Rockwell Kent

Such skepticism about this nascent field of creative endeavor was clearly not uncommon despite the contribution of a number of outstanding artists, who were beginning to apply their talents in this direction. Among those doing so in the UK were Edward Bawden, John Piper, Barnett Freedman and Edward Ardizzone, while in the USA, jackets designed by N. C. Wyeth, Rockwell Kent, Arthur Hawkins, Jr. and Cleonike Damianakes were adorning some of the great works of literature. In fact, far from working to the “fallacious doctrine that the loudest shout brings in the most customers,” these and other artists were contributing to the development of a new art form that the Book Jacket Designers Guild defined in terms of “successful integration of concept with graphic means, taste in design and idea, and expression of the spirit of the book.” The Guild had been formed in New York in 1947 by a group of graphic artists who were applying their talent to this field. They were keen to raise its profile and to gain wider recognition for designers and illustrators who were creating something a little more subtle than a squawking parrot.

More generally, the illustrated dust jacket as an integral aspect of the hardback book has been variable and patchy in its evolution around the world. In many cultures, including China and Japan, the jacket seems to have been something of a rarity. In Japan, the obi, a wraparound paper band much smaller and narrower than a full jacket, is used to give most of the textual information about the book, and folds over the printed boards, or sometimes over a jacket. Within mainland Europe there has been variation too, with some countries tending towards the use of illustrated stiff-card wraps as part of the binding, extended to form flaps that fold in and contain further information. For many years in France, certainly until the mid-1930s, the ubiquitous yellow paper jacket printed with black letterpress type prevailed. In Eastern Europe, the richly inventive graphic traditions were often applied in the form of printed, paper-covered boards rather than the detachable jacket. An exception was during the Weimar Republic. In that period, Germany, and Berlin in particular, was at the epicenter of avant-garde experimentation in book art and design, with richly varied approaches, including photomontage, pictorial typography and painting.

There is thus an inevitable bias in this overview towards the English language book. Though even here there can be found differences between British and American developments, as greater emphasis was placed on formatted series with consistent visual identity in Europe, whereas US publishers tended towards a more individualist approach to commissioning jacket designs. From the illustrators’ perspective, the emergence of the dust jacket opened up a new source of freelance employment. It would be rare, however, for an artist to be seen as specializing in jacket design; most would need to work across many other areas of commercial art. Nonetheless, the critic Steven Heller has observed that jacket design in America in the late 1940s “was still practiced by a small tight-knit group.” He quotes Ben Feder, one of the founding members of the Book Jacket Designers Guild, as recalling that, “There were probably no more than thirty artists working on a regular basis.”

The Otterbury Incident illustrated by Edward Ardizzone

In view of its origins as a plain protection to be discarded on purchase, and the relatively recent acceptance of the detachable jacket as an integral part of the book and its identity, it is ironic that for today’s book collectors the jacket is key—the presence of an original jacket on a sought-after first edition now greatly adds to its value. And if the design of the jacket is by a highly acclaimed artist, then that value will often increase further, at a time when awareness and appreciation of the book as a designed artifact is growing.

Before attempting to trace a brief history of the dust jacket, it might first be advisable to untangle the terminology, which has become confusing. The first “jackets” were generally referred to as “dust wrappers” and were exactly that, plain paper wrappings that protected the booksellers’ wares from the dust and dirt of the city up until the point of purchase. At which time the buyer would immediately discard it in order to enjoy the often ornately decorated leather binding that it had protected. The term “jacket” specifically describes the detachable paper cover that wraps around the hardback book, extending beyond its overall length and folding in at either end.

These “flaps” hold the jacket in place and are usually printed with information relating to what the book is about. The jacket’s role as a protector has diminished over the years as it has become primarily a form of display and promotion, a mini-poster that gives a taste of the contents, catches the eye and, once picked up, leads us to a “blurb” about the author and perhaps advertisements for other titles from that author and/or the publisher. Although bookjacket would seem the more proper term now for this object, dust jacket has clung on tenaciously in everyday language, long after its role in protecting the book from dust and dirt has become redundant. And although opinions vary among scholars, bibliophiles and the general public as to whether the jacket should be seen as part of the book itself or as an entirely separate, ephemeral addition, it would seem clear that the jacket is a historically important indicator of, and contribution to, contemporary graphic style and visual culture.

Although the almost universal early tendency to discard the jacket has hampered later scholarly research, it used to be generally accepted that the first printed dust jacket was forThe Keepsake of 1833 for the publishers Longmans in London. Until 2009, this was considered to be the earliest surviving example of a designed wrapper printed front and back, with a title design on the front (including border and decorative fleurons) and text on the back advertising other titles in print. Then a librarian at Oxford’s Bodleian Library unearthed an example from 1830: a printed wrapper for a book called Friendship’s Offering. However, in general through the 19th century publishers were slow to see the possibilities of the jacket as a promotional tool. The jacket itself became an increasingly common phenomenon as leather bindings were gradually superseded by cloth-covered boards, but most of them continued to be in the form of plain paper. Occasionally, transparent glassine coverings were supplied, which allowed a view of a pictorial binding. Plain jackets were also produced with die-cut “windows,” giving a glimpse of what was underneath.

By the early 20th century jackets were becoming increasingly common but design tended to be limited to the addition of an image taken from the interior of the book or some form of random decoration. It was not really until the 1920s that the jacket as we know it today became a familiar sight in bookshops and the art of book-jacket design became an important branch of the applied arts and an area of opportunity for artists.

Dance of the Quick and the Dead illustrated by Barnet Freedman

The process of arriving at a design for a book’s jacket is and has always been a collaborative one. Those involved include some or all of publisher, designer, illustrator and printer. Once the brief for the work is agreed, accommodating whatever house/series style or other ingredients are required, the design begins. A jacket might be purely typographic or may combine typography and image, photographic or illustrative. As indicated, this book is concerned with the latter and aims to spotlight the high-quality pictorial art and design that adorned the jackets of books through much of the twentieth century and, more particularly, the contribution of the artists and illustrators who created that work. Terminology is again an issue here and, happily, for a considerable portion of the period under discussion, the words “artist” and “illustrator” were not quite as irreconcilable as they are today. Some of the leading gallery artists of the time engaged with the design of book jackets, particularly in the immediate postwar years, notably John Craxton, John Piper, Graham Sutherland and Keith Vaughan. In many instances “artist” and “designer” were one and the same person.

A well-designed jacket requires close synthesis between type and image. Some of the best designs therefore have been by artists who were comfortable working with type themselves, often in the form of hand-rendered lettering, or by artists with an empathy for type and able to consider the overall balance of the design  in relation to the ideas of the typographic designer. As Steven Heller has observed, “successful cover design requires the expertise of an artist, typographer, poster designer and logo maker,” For much of the period surveyed by this book, the artists also needed to have a thorough grasp of the reprographic processes by which their work would be transferred to paper if they were to achieve the best results. Understanding and exploiting the limitations of, for example, letterpress line-block separations or autolithography was a feature of the work of a number of artists who became particularly influential in Great Britain, notably John Minton, John Nash and Barnett Freedman.

The legendary American designer George Salter outlined some of the key skills of the pictorial jacket designer in his article The Book Jacket in 1950:

The question whether a jacket can be designed by one artist and lettered by another may be answered in various ways. As it is possible to use an old print or photograph for a certain function in a jacket it must also be possible to combine the work of two artists in one jacket. Both drawing and lettering are a means to an end: the jacket.

Salter goes on to make it clear that the design process must always come first and that lettering and image must be considered in harmony from the outset. Equally important is the artist’s sensitivity to the text. An ability to absorb fully a book’s meanings and “tone” is essential:

Two elements not necessarily interrelated establish today the basic requirements for the makings of a good book jacket: graphic interpretation of the book’s intrinsic character and the method by which the publisher wishes to promote the title.

And on the importance of reading the full manuscript rather than submitting to publishers’ instructions or designing on the basis of a plot synopsis, he is even more unequivocal:

It seems utterly paradoxical to think that a person who makes it his profession to promote reading should voluntarily claim exemption from it for himself.

Salter was the chairman of the Book Jacket Designers Guild and he and his fellow founders were keen to counter the rise in sensationalist and titillating pulp-fiction design. Salter’s writings in the catalogues of the annual exhibitions have a somewhat evangelical and at times puritanical tone, perhaps reflecting the ongoing battle to gain acceptance of their work as a serious area of creative endeavor. Eventually, however, the importance of maintaining a record for scholars was acknowledged by the Library of Congress in the USA in the form of an archive of almost every published example. In the UK, what is now called the British Library Dust Jacket Collection had been started in the 1920s, initially in the form of a selection of jackets that were chosen on the basis of being of particular artistic interest.

Phocas the Gardener illustrated by Edward Bawden

As in most areas of the commercial arts, the graphic style of dust jackets through the twentieth century generally mirrored the fashions and movements of the times, and some are outlined on the pages that immediately follow. However, in the case of the more pictorial, illustrative jackets featured in this book, an artist’s unique personal visual vocabulary could often transcend fashion and in some instances lead to a long career. Artists such as Boris Artzybasheff, Bawden and Victor Reinganum employed their instantly recognizable talents across many decades without needing to reinvent themselves artistically in order to accommodate changing graphic trends and motifs. But others came and went or cleverly developed multiple visual personalities that brought them commercial reward but perhaps less cultural, critical acclaim.

What was clear as the century wore on was that the pictorial design of dust jackets was becoming an increasingly appealing and prestigious area of employment for the illustrator. Having your name on the dust-jacket flap (or perhaps even a discreet signature on the front of the jacket) could mean considerable exposure for the artist and, on occasion, close association in the public’s mind with great works of literature. Conversely, for some authors it would be seen as a major boost to have the work of certain high-profile artists gracing their covers or jackets. Regrettably, many dust-jacket designs also appeared with no acknowledgment of the artist, with some publishers being more routinely guilty of this crime than others. Of course, ultimately, as the writer Jhumpa Lahiri observes in The Clothing of Books, “What is the perfect book jacket? It doesn’t exist. The great majority of covers, like our clothes, don’t last forever.” Nonetheless, I hope we can extend the lives of a few in this book.

Excerpted from The Illustrated Dust Jacket, 1920-1970© 2017, by Martin Salisbury 

Reproduced by permission of Thames & Hudson Inc.

By Sarah Harrison Smith, December 7, 2017, first appearing on Amazon Book Blog
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Our 25 Favorite Opening Lines in Literature

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

The opening line of a story is a tricky business. They are an author’s opportunity to introduce the reader to the world being crafted, but more importantly, a chance to invite the reader in. The opening line is the moment when a writer says to the reader, “Come a little closer. Listen. This is something you’re going to want to hear.” That’s a tough thing to get right, and while it isn’t the be-all, end-all of a great book, there’s just something to be said for a well-crafted opening line. We tend to remember the ones that speak to us.

For instance, I can still recall the moment I picked up Stephen King’s The Gunslinger in a small bookstore/coffee shop that sadly no longer exists on the sporadically reinvigorated main street of my hometown. I remember because of that opening line – simple, evocative, almost mythic. It seems to be the simple lines that speak to me; I still get a chuckle when I think of picking up Andy Weir’s The Martian to see what all the fuss was about and being greeted with, “I’m pretty much fucked.” That’s the beauty of a great first line. At times, the simple suffices (we’re looking at you, Mr. Melville). At others, a more meandering and circuitous form of prose sets the stage for what’s to come (hello, Messrs. Dickens and Chabon). Regardless, great opening lines are a rare creature. When you spot one in the wild, you’re not likely to forget where you found it. Here are some of our favorites.

 

The cover of the book One Hundred Years of SolitudeOne Hundred Years of Solitude

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

 

The cover of the book Moby- DickMoby- Dick

Herman Melville

“Call me Ishmael.”

 

 

The cover of the book The GunslingerThe Gunslinger

Stephen King

“The Man in Black fled across the desert, the Gunslinger followed.”

 

 

The cover of the book The Name of the WindThe Name of the Wind

Patrick Rothfuss

“It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.”

 

The cover of the book Fahrenheit 451Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury

“It was a pleasure to burn.”

 

 

The cover of the book A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

 

The cover of the book Gravity's RainbowGravity’s Rainbow

Thomas Pynchon

“A Screaming comes across the sky.”

 

 

The cover of the book Anna KareninaAnna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

 

The cover of the book SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVESLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE

Kurt Vonnegut

“All of this happened, more or less.”

 

 

The cover of the book The Voyage of the Dawn TreaderThe Voyage of the Dawn Treader

C.S. Lewis

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

 

The cover of the book Fear and Loathing in Las VegasFear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Hunter S. Thompson

“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”

 

The cover of the book The Color PurpleThe Color Purple

Alice Walker

“You better never tell nobody but God.”

 

 

The cover of the book MiddlesexMiddlesex

Jeffrey Eugenides

“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”

 

The cover of the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

J.K. Rowling

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

 

The cover of the book ParadiseParadise

Toni Morrison

“They shoot the white girl first.”

 

 

The cover of the book The Year of Magical ThinkingThe Year of Magical Thinking

Joan Didion

“Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends. The question of self-pity.”

 

The cover of the book The MetamorphosisThe Metamorphosis

Franz Kafka

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect.”

 

The cover of the book The Bell JarThe Bell Jar

Sylvia Plath

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”

 

The cover of the book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adams

“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”

 

The cover of the book I Know Why the Caged Bird SingsI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou

“When I was three and Bailey four, we had arrived in the musty little town, wearing tags on our wrists which instructed – ‘To Whom It May Concern’ – that we were Marguerite and Bailey Johnson Jr., from Long Beach, California, en route to Stamps, Arkansas, c/o Mrs. Annie Henderson.”

 

The cover of the book The Princess BrideThe Princess Bride

William Goldman

“This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.”

 

The cover of the book The MartianThe Martian

Andy Weir

“I’m pretty much fucked.”

 

 

The cover of the book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & ClayThe Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Michael Chabon

“In later years, holding forth to an interviewer or to an audience of aging fans at a comic book convention, Sam Clay liked to declare, apropos of his and Joe Kavalier’s greatest creation, that back when he was a boy, sealed and hog-tied inside the airtight vessel known as Brooklyn, New York, he had been haunted by dreams of Harry Houdini.”

 

The cover of the book Pride and PrejudicePride and Prejudice

Jane Austen

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

 

The cover of the book The RoadThe Road

Cormac McCarthy

“When he woke in the woods in the dark and cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.”

Muggles Rejoice: ‘Harry Potter And The Cursed Child’ Is Now On Broadway

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is an original play by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne and J.K. Rowling.
Matthew Murphy/Courtesy of Boneau/Bryan-Brown

by Jeff Lunden, April 23, 2018, first appearing on Books : NPR

The most expensive play in Broadway history opened Sunday, April 22. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child cost $33.5 million, runs five and a half hours long (in two parts), and has gotten rave reviews. But while it has plenty of special effects, it’s actually designed for audiences to use their imagination.

“You don’t need millions of dollars to stage a CGI-fest,” says actor Jamie Parker. He plays a grown-up Harry Potter in a story that picks up where the last novel left off, with Harry sending his son off to Hogwarts.

Producers aimed to seduce the audience into seeing what the director wanted them to see, so suitcases become seats on the Hogwarts Express, and a young actor becomes an adult with the help of Polyjuice Potion and a big cloak. Many of the tricks are simple stage illusions, or “rough magic,” as director John Tiffany calls them.

Harry’s son, Albus (Sam Clemmett, left), befriends Scorpius Malfoy (Anthony Boyle) on the Hogwarts Express
Matthew Murphy/Courtesy of Boneau/Bryan-Brown

“I could just smell the fact that cloaks and suitcases were going to tell our story beautifully,” Tiffany says. “And I loved the idea that we were doing things that kids could also do at home when they do their version of the story.”

Jack Thorne, who wrote the play, is thrilled by this approach.

He says, “My favorite moment in the play has no dialogue in it, sadly. And it’s a staircase dance, and you just see two boys and two staircases, and the staircases are openly being pushed around by members of the company. Everyone can see what’s happening onstage, there’s no pretense about it. And you see the staircases and the boys interact in an emotionally significant way that tells the story of what’s happening to these kids.”

Cursed Child is an original play, not a stage adaptation. (Author J.K. Rowling consistently rejected overtures to adapt her novels.) “She decided that this should be called the eighth ‘story,’ ” Tiffany says, “and that it should be classed as canon and in some ways this would be her last word on Harry Potter as a character.”

Jamie Parker plays Harry Potter, and Poppy Miller plays his wife, Ginny, in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Manuel Harlan/Courtesy of Boneau/Bryan-Brown

Tiffany, Thorne and Rowling collaborated on the story, which the producers have gone to great lengths to protect. They won’t release any scenes to the media, and audiences are given buttons that say #KeeptheSecrets. (Actor Jamie Parker had to sign a nondisclosure agreement when he got hired to do a reading.) But the script is available in bookstores and, at this point, pretty much anyone who cares knows what the play is about.

Tiffany says it’s as epic as the books, and insists he never worried it couldn’t be staged. “I absolutely believe and know that theater can do anything. If you harness the audience, and if you ask just enough of them, and if they’re willing to come with you, then they will make believe that anything is happening.”

As for the producers, they believed Harry Potter’s immense popularity would bring in new theater audiences. Producer Sonia Friedman says, “In our first couple of years in London, over 60 percent of our audience [were] first-time theatergoers.”

That sounds a lot like 9-year-old Domenic Simionetti, who attended a recent matinee (his first play) with his mom. He wore a cloak, just like Harry Potter.

“I saw the special effects and I thought they looked really cool,” he said, “because I’ve never seen special effects like that, only in movies.”

Tom Cole edited this story for broadcast. Nicole Cohen adapted it for the Web.

Here’s What You Need To Know About Infinity Stones Before The New Avengers Movie

Ya Got The Stones For This? Thanos (Josh Brolin) blithely ignores Coco Chanel’s advice on accessorizing — so you knowhe’s evil — in Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War.
Marvel Studios

by Glen Weldon, April 16, 2018, first appearing on Books : NPR

Call them the Mighty Marvel Movie MacGuffins. They’re the glittery objects that drove the plots of several individual Marvel movies and that collectively shaped the direction the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe has been heading (almost) since its inception.

They are the Infinity Stones — immensely powerful gems that contain and channel elemental forces of the universe. They’re what the villains crave and what the heroes protect. They can be used to destroy or create.

Mmmmmostly that first thing.

They’ve been seeded throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2011, and now, with the release of Avengers: Infinity War on April 27, all the logistical heavy lifting of seven years’ worth of films — chasing the Stones, finding them, wielding them, handing them off to shady minor characters for safekeeping — comes to a head.

Well. To a hand, anyway.

Thanos’ hand, to be specific. Thanos’ gauntlet, if you want to get technical.

Thanos is the MCU’s biggest Big Bad, first glimpsed in a post-credit scene in 2012’s The Avengers. He is a hulking, purplish-reddish-bluish (seems to depend on the movie’s color balance) space warlord determined to reduce the population of the universe by half. If he collects all of the Infinity Stones and affixes them to a metal glove-thingy called the Infinity Gauntlet, he will be able to go about his deadly halving business, according to his daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) in the trailer, “with a snap of his fingers.”

(Leave aside, for the moment, how difficult it would be to snap one’s fingers in a metal gauntlet.)

(I mean it would be less of a snap and more a rasp, right?)

(Or maybe a clang? Like he was striking some terrible Xylophone of Pan-Galactic Death? Or a Wind Chime of Cosmic Annihilation?)

Anyway. That’s Thanos pictured at the top of this post. He is played in the movie by Josh Brolin and a superfluity of CGI chin dimples. And that thing he has on his left hand (so literally sinister!) is the Infinity Gauntlet.

As you can see, he is already well on his way to collecting ’em all — not quite at full, “Billie Jean”-era sparkle-glove status, but close.

Let’s review where the various Infinity Stones were the last time we saw them — and what they do.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Space Stone

AKA: The Tesseract

What It Looks Like: When first glimpsed in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), a glowing blue cube. (The cube is just a housing that allows the glowy blue stone inside to be handled by us lowly humans.)

What It Does: Opens wormholes in space, making possible instantaneous travel between any two points in the universe. Also has undetermined (read: hazily defined) power to develop weaponry.

Transporting is what the eeeevil Red Skull did with it in Captain America: The First Avenger. It was later recovered by S.H.I.E.L.D., which lost it when Loki absconded with it in The Avengers (2012) and used it to open a wormhole above Manhattan through which an alien army attacked Earth.

Where It Is Now: It spent some time in Asgard’s armory, but at the end of Thor: Ragnarok (2017), it was stolen by Loki. (At the very end of Thor: Ragnarok, the spaceship Thor and Loki were flying was intercepted by what was very likely Thanos’ ship. So if you’re taking bets, the Space Stone is likely one of the first Infinity Stones we’ll see Thanos add to his collection.)

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Mind Stone

AKA: The Scepter

What It Looks Like: At first, in The Avengers, a scepter housing a glowy blue gem. Nowadays, a yellow gem (long story) embedded in the forehead of Vision.

What It Does: Oh, a lot of stuff. In its Scepter mode, it granted Loki zappy powers and the ability to manipulate minds, and its mere presence made the Avengers more snippy than baseline. In its current mode (as of 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, it grants Vision the ability to … do lots of stuff, including phase through matter, fly, zap others with energy beams and, you know … live.)

Where It Is Now: Doing time on Vision’s forehead. But the trailers suggest this will not be a permanent condition. Look for Vision to get blurry.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Reality Stone

AKA: The Aether

What It Looks Like: Not like a stone, for one thing. Instead, it’s a thick, red liquid that sends out tendrils that undulate in a cinematically creepy way.

What It Does: Look, it’s OK. You didn’t see Thor: The Dark World (2013). A lot of people didn’t. So you didn’t see the Reality Stone (in the form of the Aether) take over the body of Thor’s girlfriend, Jane Foster, allowing her to send out shock waves and … whatnot. As its name suggests, the Reality Stone alters reality, by converting matter to dark matter. Don’t bother asking why that’s a thing. Doesn’t matter. Lots of people didn’t see Thor: The Dark World.

Where It Is Now: For safekeeping, it was given to an ancient being who collects lots of stuff. His name, appropriately enough, is the Collector. (He is played by Benicio del Toro in Thor: The Dark World, and his character is the brother of Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster from Thor: Ragnarok.)

Given that not a lot of people saw Thor: The Dark World, I’d wager we won’t get a big protracted scene of Thanos hunting down and claiming the Reality Stone, and Infinity War will simply cut to the (end of the) chase.

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Power Stone

AKA: The Orb

What It Looks Like: When we first see it, at the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), it’s encased in a silver spherical rock-thing. Later, the Orb is split open and the stone inside is grafted onto a bad guy’s space-hammer and given the awesomely ridiculous name of Cosmi-Rod. Once the bad guy is defeated through the power of dance, the Stone is returned to another Orb-casing.

What It Does: Grants … power? Look, I know, the specific abilities of the various stones seem kind of frustratingly all over the place, but this one’s legit. It makes its wielder more powerful — better, stronger, more zappy. You know: energy blasts and energy tornadoes and energy waves and energy bars. (No, OK, not that last one.)

Where It Is Now: Benicio del Toro’s Collector character nearly added it to his collection, but it sent out a massive energy blast, as is its zappy wont, that destroyed most of his menagerie. It ended up in hands of the Nova Corps — basically the Marvel Universe’s resident space-cops, run by Glenn Close in a complicated wig — and there it will stay, until it won’t.

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Time Stone

AKA: The Eye of Agamotto

What It Looks Like: First (and only) seen in Doctor Strange (2016), it’s a glowy green gem housed inside an amulet embossed with an eye.

What It Does: Finally, some specificity! Some truth in advertising! The Time Stone allows its wielder to control time — to speed it up, slow it down, reverse it or create time loops. See, there, Marvel? Simple. Precise. Clean.

Where It Is Now: Hanging around Doctor Stephen Strange’s neck, right under his dumb goatee.

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Soul Stone

AKA: ?

What It Looks Like: Again, ? It has yet to turn up in a Marvel movie, at least by that name. It’s most likely an orange gem, the largest of them all, which fits on the back of the gauntlet — not, as the others do, on the fingers.

What It Does: In the comics, it grants its owner the ability to do lots of mystical things — trap souls in an artificial existence, see into a person’s soul, etc. It’s not known how closely the film will adhere to this.

But given the fact that so much of the Infinity War trailer is set in and around Wakanda — and the fact that the “heart-shaped flower” seen in Black Panther grants the ability to commune with the dead — many have speculated that the Soul Stone will turn out to have something to do with vibranium.

Where It Is Now: Your guess is as good as any. Unless you guess, “in Wakanda,” in which case it’s slightly better than most, probably.

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Sharon Stone

AKA: Catherine Tramell, Ginger McKenna, Iris Burton

What It Looks Like: A human woman.

What It Does: Wears the Gap to the Oscars, famously. And nowadays? Rocks the hell out of a Disaster Artist cameo and gives a great interview in a sweater to which attention must be paid.

Where It Is Now: Not getting the work it deserves, HOLLYWOOD.

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Slyandthefamily Stone

AKA: Sly Stone, Freddie Stone, Rose Stone, Cynthia Robinson, Greg Errico, Jerry Martini, Larry Graham.

What It Looks Like: Deeply groovy.

What It Does: Effortlessly fuse rock, soul, funk and psychedelia into chart-topping, socially conscious pop anthems.

Where It Is Now: On the set list of every wedding DJ at or slightly after 10:30 p.m.

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Coldcreamery Stone

AKA: “That place your Aunt Janice likes? With the slab? What’s it called?”

What It Looks Like: An ice cream store, duh.

What It Does: Grants its wielder one unusually muscular forearm.

Where It Is Now: 1,100 locations in the U.S. and abroad.