I have to tell you, readers, that when I visited my local Anthropologie today, I was not looking for books. (I was, in fact, looking for a sale-priced cocktail dress, and I found one! Friends with upcoming weddings: I will not be arriving in the nude. You’re so welcome.) But: there were books. There were these books:
And also THESE books:
Surreptitious iPhone photos aside, aren’t they just about the loveliest? They’re Penguin Classics hardcovers with covers designed by Mr. Boddington’s Studio, and let me just recommend that you don’t click that link, because if you do, all your money are belong to them. No, actually, DO click that link and check out their lookbook, and then wonder why you are not currently getting married in a picturesque ceremony in Italy/Minneapolis/the Rocky Mountains/a ranch on the California coast. Not that I would spend half an hour doing exactly that. Noooope. Not this girl.
Anyway, I don’t know about you, readers, but I am a picky lady when it comes to covers—especially covers for classics. The truth is that I don’t own a complete set of Austen’s novels, in part because I can’t commit to a cover design. My copy of Pride and Prejudice is the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle movie tie-in version, and I’m not sure how that happened—I think it must have been a gift. I love it for sentimental reasons, but it’s ugly. And oh, my library-paperback copy of Emma provokes such internal conflict (much like Miss Woodhouse herself)! It’s hot pink, and clearly intended to snare unknowing chick-lit fans trawling the stacks. It is simultaneously better-looking than many other library copies, and a little offensive to my smart-lady sensibilities. I see what you’re doing there, library, and I’m not sure whether I like it. But I’m going to keep reading.
The recent smattering of well-designed Penguin Classics and other versions helps all this. And, really, these may be my Platonic classics covers, especially the Sense and Sensibility—I feel like that lovely design is going to age well. But the question remains: will I replace my ugly P&P with one that’s prettier but hasn’t traveled through life with me? Will I buy a stylish copy of Mansfield Park (I borrowed Miss Osborne’s copy for last year’s read-along; she read along on her iPad like the tech ninja she is) that I’ll hate in ten years? Why do I even care?
So, readers, tell me: what editions of Austen do you have? Which editions of Austen do you WANT? Or are you above all that and just in it for the language? Hit me.
Literary aesthetes/crafty nerds, take heart! Penguin Classics, ever popular for their artsy, modern designs, is taking things even further this fall: hand-sewn covers for Emma, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, and Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty! Or, at least, the originals were hand-sewn—the mass-produced versions will use sculpted emboss, which (according to the Google machine and my limited understanding of non-standard cover design; Miss Osborne could doubtless fill in the gaps) is a non-thread, non-manual-labor sort of endeavor. Which, hey, might be okay, considering the thorny issues surrounding who exactly would be doing the embroidery of thousands of ostensibly non-exorbitantly-priced mass-market books. In any case, the covers were created by artist Jillian Tamaki (check out process photos here), who apparently said that she would not be taking commissions for embroidery work unless Penguin Classics invited her to embroider their books. Which just makes me want to say, Hey, I will never write for television unless it’s for whatever Bryan Fuller‘s doing next! Nor will I ever take a writing job on the internet unless it’s for Go Fug Yourself! And I certainly won’t write for print unless it’s for The New Yorker. OBVIOUSLY.
Sooooo, I’ll just be over here, waiting for the phone to ring. Yup, aaaaany second now.
Via The Atlantic.
Several weeks ago, I was appalled to hear that a publisher had reprinted Wuthering Heights with a cover that was clearly mimicking the Twilight book covers. (And in case we didn’t make the connection, the cover spells it out: “Bella and Edward’s Favorite Book.”) Fine. I’ve never actually enjoyed Wuthering Heights anyway, so let the legion of Twilight fans be sucked in by the marketing schemes of HarperTeen.
Sadly, the trend didn’t stop there. They’ve Twilight-ified Pride and Prejudice.
Bastardos! Now, I’m down with vampire lore, old and new. Buffy, Angel, the original Dracula novel, Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, Interview with the Vampire, The Lost Boys (Jason Patric, boys eating maggots, Edward “Lorelai Gilmore’s Dad” Hermann, does it get any better than that?) . . . bring it on! I just don’t see why Pride and Prejudice needs to look like Twilight to get girls (or boys) to pick it up and read it. And what, what, does this cover have to do with the style of Jane Austen? It’s soppy, cheesy, and over-simplified. It has no sense of humor. Do we see Lizzie and Darcy throwing flowers at each other in the dark? No, we see them in a duel of wits on the dance floor. A pair of crossed swords would have made a better, albeit still too romantic, cover for our beloved Pride and Prejudice.
Maybe it’s that I produce books for a living, but I have strong feeling on the subject of book covers. My favorite Jane Austen cover designs are from the mid-1990s, published by State Street Press (an imprint of Borders). I like the clean look, the modern type with the old fashioned images. And, because I am a production dork, I love that the images are glossy on a matte background, making them pop.
I also like the new illustrated cover from Penguin Classics. Slightly Edward Gorey-esque style (though true Ruben Toledo fans might not like me referencing another artist), but clean and fun. You can almost see them flirtatiously throwing insults at each other the moment before.
What’s your favorite cover design for a Jane Austen book, and why?