By Megan Powell, Hannah Spruce, Michael Calder and Lucy Carr
It is without a doubt that classic literature is home to some exquisite covers. The varying editions of the novels allow for readers to aspire to collect these gorgeous covers. Thanks to many of the classic novels being out of copyright, many sellers can redesign and create some wonderful pieces of art to coincide with the beautiful story being told inside. It is safe to judge a classic book by its cover when reading one of these special editions. The classics team have worked together to discuss some of our favourite editions ranging from style to price, and there will surely be a collection you will want to add to your bookshelf.
The Seasons Edition
This collection is very special and a must-have for classic readers. As the name suggests, the collection is separated into seasons featuring four classic novels, which are based, inspired or set in each of the four seasons. For example, the Winter collection groups Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Thomas Nelson’s reproductions are delicately designed by Kate Armstrong, whose laser-cut book jackets creatively depict a key theme within the novel while adhering to the thematic scheme of the categorised season. This is expanded throughout the whole production of the book with sprayed edges to match the cover, alongside a collector’s bookmark and a perfectly selected quote from the novel to adorn the blurb. Each book is numbered, truly making this a remarkable collector’s choice. The Seasons Edition will make for a perfect present for readers with the truly stunning sleeves being expertly crafted to reflect not only the season but essence of the novel itself. The attention to detail is inspiring and will brighten your reading of the classic story. Current seasons editions were released from 2019–2021 and Thomas Nelson has updated plans for a 2022 Jane Austen collection – how exciting!
First released in 2008, the Penguin Clothbound Classics began as a collection of ten novels, including Great Expectations, Wuthering Heights, Sense and Sensibility and The Picture of Dorian Gray, with fantastically decorated linen cloth covers, embossed with foil patterns. Each cover, designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith, adopts thematic imagery into its overarching, vibrant patterning and colour scheme, making the collection an excellent addition across bibliophilic shelves. Additionally, these charismatic novels come with a collection staple – an attached ribbon bookmark.
Initially a Waterstones exclusive collection, the Penguin Clothbound Classics became wildly popular among collectors and, thereafter, distribution routes diversified, making the collection accessible. Now, the collection contains more than ninety novels, each with a unique design. A further three novels are anticipated to join the collection in 2023, with an edition of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde amongst the newcomers.
Penguin English Library and Wordsworth Classics
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have an impressive and high-quality classics collection, the Penguin English Library and the Wordsworth Classics offer a more affordable way to display your favourite titles. The Penguin English Library is composed of 105 books spanning from Austen to Orwell, with the chance to get five classics for £25 and the summertime bundles, making it an easy way to get your collection started. Despite its low price-tag, the covers make a statement with their vibrant colours and designs which often focus on a quirky object associated with the text. The Wordsworth Classics have a different theme, with a signature background and varied pictures which often depict the characters or the setting of the book. These collections also have an academic benefit, with introductions and analysis from critics and specialists to enhance your reading of the text and their literary and cultural impact. Ultimately, these two series are the perfect way to find and collect your next favourite classic.
Since 2018, Chiltern Publishing has released special collectible editions of beloved classics. Typically, they release eight new volumes a year, including one children’s book and a work of speculative fiction, amongst a wider mix of the most notable novels in the classic canon. Some of their 2022 releases include Peter Pan by James Matthew Barrie, Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott and Animal Farm by George Orwell and of course, if you look at their website you’ll find they’ve already released seminal works by the likes of Dickens, the Brontës and more.
Their covers mix traditional and modern printing techniques, so, for example, all the Jane Austen books reflect the size and format of the original books. With shining gilt edges, beautifully designed and satisfyingly textured covers, the Chiltern classic series invites you to judge books by their covers – even though you probably don’t need to buy a fourth edition of Pride and Prejudice, these collectibles are so pretty, it’s hard to think of reasons why you shouldn’t.