Making O’Reilly animals

Lori Houston, O’Reilly:

The last question touches on a bit of early O’Reilly history. Edie Freedman (now O’Reilly’s Creative Director) was hired to design the first book covers. She thought the books had the strangest titles–sed and awk?–that evoked images of the popular fantasy game, “Dungeons and Dragons.”

While looking for imagery, she came across the Dover Pictorial Archives, a series of books (and now CD-ROMs) containing copyright-free collections of 18th- and 19th-century wood and copperplate engravings of animals. She encountered a pair of slender lorises and had an epiphany. “That’s sed and awk!”

She scanned several animals from the archive and placed them on mock-up covers, which she then presented to everyone at O’Reilly. O’Reilly had ten or so employees at the time, and people wondered if the animals were appropriate. But Edie convinced them to follow her instincts. Customers wound up loving the covers, and a brand was born.

I’ve always been curious why O’Reilly books have always been synonymous with animals on the cover; now we know.