Cover This Classic #1

As you may know, I am a sucker for good cover design. It’s why I own so many copies of Austen novels (and why I have so many more on my wishlist). So, a new feature was born: Cover This Classic, where I talk about book design. Please note: I am not a graphic designer, and cannot talk about the technicalities of book design (beyond what directions an editor may give in a book design brief). I am only here to babble over good lookin’ books.

First up: the Penguin Gothic Classics, designed by the ever-brilliant Coralie Bickford-Smith and released in 2008.


I’m pretty sure that most (if not all) of these are now out of print, which is disappointing because they are stunning. How were these covers created, you ask? Well, according to Bickford-Smith:

After experimenting with a few different processes I came up with the idea of using cyanotypes. It’s an early photographic process using light sensitive paper to make – literally – blueprints. They have a fantastic ethereal texture to them, which was ideal for the ghostly tales.

My favourite thing about Bickford-Smith’s designs is that they appear so simple, and yet so effective. She does a really good job of being able to draw a reader’s eye to the book, and capturing the essence of the story. This is evident in what is my favourite of Bickford-Smith’s designs, the Clothbound Classics edition of Emma. If it seems weird that a simple motif of a chair would be my pick, ask an Austen fan.

My favourite cover in this series is either Wilkie Collins’ The Haunted Hotel or Vernon Lee’s The Virgin of the Seven Daggers, what’s yours?


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