Saturday, February 20, 2016

1967's "Romania: A Guidebook" and the artwork of Val Munteanu

Here's a book you might wish to track down just for the artwork.

This is the dust-jacket cover for 1967's Romania: A Guidebook, which was published by Meridiane Publishing House of Bucharest. The compact book, which measures 5 inches wide by 6½ inches tall by 1½ inches thick and runs for nearly 500 pages, contains everything you'd want to know about various tourist routes through Romania nearly a half-century ago.

A few of the 21 routes covered include Bucharest-Ploiești-Brașov, Sibiu-Rîmnicu Vîlcea-Pitești and Turnu Severin-Timișoara. There is also a large, fold-out map of the Socialist Republic of Romania.

But, as I mentioned, the reason you might want this book is the artwork. Its pages are filled with dozens of full-color illustrations, many of which take up an entire page and all of which make browsing the book a delight.

The cover artist (and presumably the lead artist) was Val Munteanu (1927-1996). Munteanu was a famous illustrator and cartoonist who was well known for illustrating volumes of folk tales and classical literature. You can see many examples of his work on his website,, which is maintained by his son. It features considerable galleries. I especially recommend that you check out his work on The Beautiful Rora — Fairytales from Romania, Till Eulenspiegel, and Romanian and Saxon Fairy Tales.

My assumption is that Munteanu did the full-page illustrations in Romania: A Guidebook, but the specific artists are not credited on each work. The copyright page states: "Lay-out and colour illustrations by graphic artists Val Munteanu, Florica Vasilescu, Aurel Stoicescu, Ion Petrescu and Damian Petrescu."

Given the dimensions of this book, it wasn't possible to open it fully and place it on the scanner without damaging it. So the following gallery of its interior illustrations was done via less-than-ideal cellphone snapshots. They don't do the artwork justice, of course, but they can give you a good sense of how wonderful they are.

If any of this piques your interest, there are — as of this writing — a couple of used copies of Romania: A Guidebook listed on for about $6.

I really do recommend it for the artwork. But it's also an invaluable mid-century snapshot of life in Romania, for travel and history buffs.

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