Bel Geddes, Norman: HORIZONS & MAGIC MOTORWAYS. Boston / New York, 1932 / 1940. An Uncirculated Set.

Prev Next

Loading Updating cart...


Norman Bel Geddes

Norman Bel Geddes: HORIZONS. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1932. First edition. Quarto. Silver fabricoid cloth decorated in black. Printed dust jacket. 294 pp. 215 black and white illustrations. Spine crown lightly bruised, otherwise a fine copy in a fine dust jacket. Rare thus.

Norman Bel Geddes: MAGIC MOTORWAYS. New York: Random House, 1940. First edition. Quarto. Tan fabricoid cloth decorated in maroon. Photo illustrated dust jacket. 298 pp. 206 black and white illustrations. Endpapers and gutters lightly discolored [as usual]. A nearly fine copy in a fine dust jacket.

An immaculate and uncirculated set deaccessioned from the Norman Bel Geddes Theater and Industrial Design Archive housed at The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin.

Bel Geddes' first book HORIZONS is a stunning survey of modernist design, illustrated throughout with drawings, models and photographs of the author's utopic industrial innovation with chapters on motor cars and buses, railways, airports and airplanes, houses, theatres, restaurants, and more.

His second book MAGIC MOTORWAYS included chapters on Eliminate the Human Factor in Driving, Every Highway Intersection is Obsolete and Full Speed Through Bottlenecks and described a particular American utopian future. Geddes belief in the automobile as the defining force of the future was sadly prescient.

Norman Bel Geddes (1893 - 1958) was the first person to seriously apply the concepts of aerodynamics and streamlining to industrial design. To Geddes, streamlining illustrated courage: "We are too much inclined to believe, because things have long been done a certain way, that that is the best way to do them. Following old grooves of thought is one method of playing safe. But it deprives one of initiative and takes too long. It sacrifices the value of the element of surprise. At times, the only thing to do is to cut loose and do the unexpected! It takes more even than imagination to be progressive. It takes vision and courage."

Bel Geddes expounded a philosophy of "essential forms" evolved from their systems of use. He helped to establish a new professional niche -- that of "industrial designer," arguing for a closer relationship between engineering and design.

"When you drive on an interstate highway, attend a multimedia Broadway show, or watch a football game in an all-weather stadium, you owe a debt of gratitude to Norman Bel Geddes. Bel Geddes was both a visionary and a pragmatist who had a significant role in shaping not only modern America but also the nation's image of itself as leading the way into the future. Bel Geddes was a polymath who had no academic or professional training in the activities he mastered -- designing stage sets, costumes, and lighting; creating theater buildings, offices, nightclubs, and houses; and authoring prescient books and articles.

Bel Geddes believed that art, as well as architecture and design, could make people's lives psychologically and emotionally richer. He influenced the behavior of American consumers and helped make industrial and theater design into modern businesses. Believing that communication was key to shaping the modern world, Bel Geddes popularized his vision of the future through drawings, models, and photographs. Of his utopian predictions, Bel Geddes's best-known project was the Futurama exhibit in the General Motors "Highways and Horizons" pavilion at the 1939 - 1940 New York World's Fair. It was an immense model of America, circa 1960, seen by 27,500 visitors daily who exited with a pin proclaiming "I Have Seen the Future.

-- The Harry Ransom Center