The First Edition Covers of 25 Classic Books


We try not to judge books by their covers — both proverbially and literally — but sometimes we just can’t help it. After all, the cover is your first impression of a book, and can inform the way you approach it. Plus, at least in our experience, any avid reader who carries a book wherever she goes has memories and feelings attached to it that can be instantly dredged up by a peek at the cover art. But of course, most book covers change over the years, whether minimally, correcting for modern fonts and colors, or maximally, going through radical change after radical change, each generation connecting (or not connecting) to a different design. With that in mind, after the jump, we’ve collected a few first edition covers of classic books, some of which may be familiar to you — a certain blue masterpiece will perhaps never fall out of favor — though some have been replaced by much more iconic imagery or fallen out of favor. Click through to reminisce over (or discover) 25 covers of classic books, and let us know if we missed your favorite in the comments.

Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. Olympia Press, Paris, 1955

Ulysses, by James Joyce. Shakespeare & Co., Paris, 1922

The Trial (Der Process), by Franz Kafka. Die Schmiede, Berlin, 1925

Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. William Heinemann Ltd., London, 1958. Cover design by C.W. Barton.

The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner. Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith, New York, 1929

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. Chatto & Windus, London, 1932. Cover design by Leslie Holland.

The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1954-1955. Cover design by J.R.R. Tolkien. Image via Peter Harrington.

To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf. Hogarth Press, London, 1927. Cover design by Vanessa Bell.

Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Delacorte, New York, 1969

Native Son, by Richard Wright. Harper & Brothers, New York, 1940

Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell. Secker and Warburg, London, 1949. Cover design by Michael Kennard.

Beloved, by Toni Morrison. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1987

On the Road, by Jack Kerouac. Viking Press, New York, 1957

The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway. Scribner, 1926. Cover design by Cleonike Damianakes.

A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess. William Heinemann, London, 1962

Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh. Chapman and Hall, London, 1945. Image via Peter Harrington.

Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell. Macmillan, 1936

Animal Farm, by George Orwell. Secker and Warburg, London, 1945

The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton. D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1920

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. Harper & Brothers, New York, 1943

The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Ticknor, Reed and Fields, Boston, 1850

The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan. W.W. Norton and Co., 1963

A Good Man is Hard to Find, by Flannery O’Connor. Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1955

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. Macmillan, 1865

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Scribner, New York, 1925. Cover design by Francis Cugat.