Review: Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers by Margaret C. Sullivan
Release date: November 11th, 2014
Publisher: Quirk Books
Source: Finished copy from the publisher
Length: 224 pages
Rating: Gorgeous, Jane Austen-y, hilarious, and comprehensive. Perfect holiday gift for Janeites!
Jane Austen’s six novels are true classics, still immensely popular some 200 years after their first publication. But although the celebrated stories never change, the covers are always different. Jane Austen Cover to Cover compiles two centuries of design, from elegant Victorian hardcovers and the famed 1894 “Peacock” edition to 1950s pulp, movie tie-in editions, graphic novels, foreign-language translations, and many, many others. Filled with beautiful artwork and insightful commentary, this fascinating and visually intriguing collection is a must for Janeites, design geeks, and book lovers of every stripe.
You guys, this book is my catnip. It combines several of my favorite things: Jane Austen, cover design, history, and humor. It's got a gorgeous cover and full-color pages and hilarious commentary.
Full disclaimer: this book was made for me. I'm coming in with a just Janeite bias. I've read every book multiple times over, I've seen every adaptation that I've heard of, I can quote lines from memory, and I even have Jane Austen band aids. And most important, I collect Jane Austen editions. I am a huge book hoarder and I love multiple editions of my all-time faves. Some of the books I've purchased are highlighted in this volume, which was pretty cool. If a long-lost relative died and left me tickets to a Jane Austen immersion manor across the sea, I'd be there in a heartbeat. So know going in that this book is a total Gillian book in every way.
|I'm a cliche. I'm okay with it.|
Jane Austen Cover to Cover is part coffee-table book, part history of the evolution of covers for Jane Austen's books, spanning from the old clothbound originals to the modern day designs and movie tie-ins. Each period in history includes clever commentary on the time period, and each batch of covers has detailed commentary as well on the make of the cover, the design philosophy, and the style. Frequently, this commentary is hilarious. Do not skip the small print, because there's snark in them thar pages. It's a delicate, sly kind of wit of which Jane would very, very approve. (Possibly not the jokes about how "unabridged" Mr. Tilney is belowstairs, but who knows. Maybe Jane was a broad.) (But seriously, some of those romance and foreign editions are hysterically bad.)
Many of the covers highlighted inside are gorgeous. And then there's the book itself, which is a work of art. The over-sized hardcover has this lovely velvet and gloss texture, and inside the colors are vivid and the type gorgeous. I found myself petting the book as I read. Poor fondled book. Normally I drink coffee while I read, but I wouldn't let aaaany foodstuffs get near the precious. When I finished, it went straight back on the Jane Austen altar where it belongs. If you have someone in your life who is either a) a cover design nerd b) a Janeite or c) a lover of pretty books, I'm pretty sure they'd love this as a holiday gift.
The only negative about Jane Austen Cover to Cover is that I now have to go shopping. It's like a giant fancy catalogue full of teasery. CURSE YOU, BOOK.