If a rose is only as good as its petals, is a classic novel only as good as its flaps? Over the years, the covers of many of our favorite books have been reinterpreted by different artists (and publishers and sales reps, most likely) to varying degrees of success. We could all do with a new set of drapes now and again, it’s true, but some changes are better than others. While some of these covers have clearly been redesigned with an eye towards picking up a new kind of consumer, others are just “modernized” or simply “ruined.” Peep 14 before and after cover designs for yourself after the jump, and let us know whether you prefer the classic or the nouveau.
1984 by George Orwell The earlier version is significantly sexier than the later. But we must admit we love the raw psychotic scrawl — in this and all things.
1955, Signet Edition
2009, Penguin UK
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein What, do they think they can bill it as Planet Earth?
1968, Berkley Medallion Edition
1996, Tor Books
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs This is a ridiculously difficult book to represent visually — leading some designers to just slap the name and some colors on the front. But for Burroughs, the more monstrous, the better.
1973, Ballantine Books
2001, Flamingo Sixties Classic Edition
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov Different translations of this Russian classic allow for lots of opportunities for new covers (and we couldn’t help but show more than two) — but to our eyes, the originals are still the best. Kind of can’t argue with the UK cover though.
1967, Grove Press
1967, Harper & Row
2006, Penguin UK
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne This is one of those “rebranding” redesigns. Ruben Toledo’s drawings bring a distinctly young-women’s-lit vibe to this age-old classic. One thing’s for sure — she’s way more believable as a sexy harlot in the newer version.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy Obviously we’re ignoring the movie poster covers.
2006, Knopf (with deckle edge for added authenticity)
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley Lots of these. Here are two we quite liked — and that didn’t come with any 9th grade shell-shock memories.
2004, Harper Collins
2006, Harper Perennial Modern Classics
On The Road by Jack Kerouac Both way too sexy for Kerouac.
1961, UK Pan Giant
2000, Penguin Modern Classics
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov Due to the delicate subject matter, many versions of Lolita stray from cover art entirely, and those that brave it usually go with a hand-drawn image or some sort of synecdoche achieved with lips or knees.
1958, Dutch Edition
1977, Berkeley Medallion Edition
FYI, John Gall’s original design was this:
Which is brilliant. Horrifying and delicate all at once, which is rather perfect for the subject at hand. Just stare at it for a while.
If you’re interested in Lolita, check out Dieter E. Zimmer’s online Lolita book cover archive.
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut The Carin Goldberg designs for the Vonnegut collection are basically ubiquitous. But other options do exist.
’80s, Dial Press
2009, Random House
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë There’s some confusion over her level of attractiveness.
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells The time machine itself is always subject to wild interpretation.
The classic Tor edition
The newest Penguin Classic redesign, courtesy of John Parot, recent winner of the Cover Design Challenge on Bravo’s Work of Art: The Next Great Artist.
The Trial by Franz Kafka Very open to interpretation — we’re surprised there aren’t more exciting covers for this one, but people like to stick to pointillistic portraits of the author. Here are a couple outliers.
Unknown. But very cool.
2000, Penguin Classics
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote This is the color blood turns when it gets older.
2002, Random House