Readersforum's Blog

May 20, 2013

Restyling the Classics: Don’t Judge a New Cover by the Old Book

largeBy Jen Doll

There’s been a lot of talk about the new (book) edition of The Great Gatsby, with its movie tie-in cover that’s been dubbed terrible by some and enticing by others. But there’s a whole world of re-imagined book covers for classic novels well beyond those Leonardo Di Caprio editions of Gatsby. Take a look, for instance, at book designer Neil Gower’s new cover for the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of John O’Hara’s Appointment in Samarra, which was released April 30. (It’s the one in red, above, at right, next to the 1934 classic designed by Alfred Maurer.) There are many, many examples of old books done new again, like Drop Caps (see below), the stand-out series from type designer Jessica Hische and Penguin VP Executive Creative Director Paul Buckley. And there’s Coralie Bickford-Smith’s lovely Cloth-Bound Classics series for Penguin, in which she turns books into collectible, cloth-bound artifacts (scroll down to see them; they’re the row of books with spines facing toward you below The Portable Dorothy Parker).

There’s no shame in redesigning a classic. “Given the fact that the classics have been around for many years, it is no surprise to me that they have been re-jacketed numerous times,” Bickford-Smith told me. “I truly admire some of the iconic covers from the past for certain classic pieces of literature, but from a selfish point of view as a designer of books, if the original cover had stuck, I would have never have got to design covers for such a incredible bunch of historic authors.”

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