Decorate: Judging by the Cover

By Jo Phillips

Some might say a book cover is a just a protection used to bind together the pages of a book… It is a true but only if we are talking hundreds and hundreds years ago when there were no steam-powered presses and mechanical book-binding. But how can we apply this to the modern day? With technological changes a book cover has become more than just a protective device; a book cover is an art.

First ‘modern’ covers were simple and sophisticated, the invention of silver and color stamping helped to make them a bit more artistic. Then the cloth was introduced and dust jackets were born. Some of them served only temporary purposes and were meant to be thrown away once books were delivered to markets. However, by the 20th century dust jackets became more purposeful and were meant to advertise the book (while still protecting it). The Yellow Book, published in London from 1894 to 1897, and its prints made a huge impact on cover design and would then usher the expressionistic designs of the 1920s (bold and simple). 1930s saw a revolution also known as a paperback covers which made books more available to all the people. Plus, paperbacks set a new trend on graphic-heavy illustrations, which ruled the industry till the end of 20th century.

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The love of the foolish angel, by 
Helen Beauclerk
, Illustrated by Edmund Dulac
 (dust coat)

The-Yellow-Book

The Yellow Book

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The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cover by Francis Cugat

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Penguin’s paperbacks

Nowadays, only true booklovers still go to bookstores to get a new novel or a short story to read. The competition is steeper and the shelf space is, unfortunately, smaller. Publishers have to work days and nights in order to come up with something that will catch the eyes of remaining loyalists… And an outstanding cover is a good way of doing that.

The latest trend is recovering. And while some conservative readers may hate this trend, the youth love it. Modern covers appeals to new readers. Creating new covers for classics means that publishers don’t want these books to be forgotten. Recovering is a way of telling people that this or that book is important. A beautiful new cover can call the attention to an old classic that might feel a bit dusty. And what’s bad in that?

There is even a special project dedicated to recovering. It’s called Recovering the Classics and it was launched back in 2013. Project’s aim is to create new exciting covers for 100 of the greatest works instead of poorly designed ones that fail to capture what makes book exciting. And what is even more amazing, anyone can contribute and all designs are available for sale! Since 2013 Recovering the Classics became extremely popular and this year the White House, the Public Library of America, and the New York Public Library decided to release the redesigned covers as e-books!

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The Brothers Karamazov recovered by Roberlan Borges

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Dracula recovered by Steve St. Pierre

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The Metamorphosis recovered by Frank Myles

You can also read about re-designed books here