Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review: "Jane Austen Cover to Cover" by Margaret C. Sullivan

People generally don't just like Jane Austen and her works, they pretty much fall in love with her.  Some will even become interested beyond her published words and look to biographies, her letters, her unfinished pieces and more in order to better understand her.  This book takes a slightly different approach and looks at the book covers designed for the many editions of her six main novels and other works and what they say about Austen, the time of her writing and the time when the edition is published.  These books have been published nearly continuously for 200 years now and there have been many different styles and adaptations in that time.

This book comes to me at kind of the perfect time.  I am currently taking a class that looks at Modern Publishing and Librarianship and much of what is discussed here falls into what we've talked about in class.  For this reason, I would not say that this is a basic overview of just book covers.  There is more meat here.  There is discussion on the book publishing process, especially the negotiations between Austen and publishers regarding copyright and the physical design of the books themselves.  For fun, there are some light-hearted critiques of some covers that have made some, um, shall we say, interesting design choices?  I really enjoyed the section on adaptations regarding various adaptions like films, the Quirk series that includes the title Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, board books for very young children and those translated into other languages.

This book is also quite beautiful on its own.  In addition to all the full color renderings of many many book covers, there are also lovely quotes woven throughout the text.  The biggest danger here is that if you are anything like me, you will read through this book and make a shopping list of editions and covers you'd really like to have.  I mean, did you know that Marvel made a comic adaptation of some of Austen's novels a couple years ago?  I didn't...  and now I feel like I might need to check some of those out.  If you are a Janeite, or are into book design, you'll enjoy this one for sure.

Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Covers
by Margaret C. Sullivan
Quirk, 2014
224 pages
Source:  Publisher for honest review



Hanna Whitehead said...

Wow, I had no idea that this existed. I collect different editions of Pride and Prejudice and have 72 at the moment, but I suspect this book would make me realise just how many I'm lacking!

I do have the Marvel graphic novel one though :p said...

Ugh every time you talk about your classes I get so jealous and am like I should do that to! I mean it is only just next door.

I've seen this one on a few sites recently and I really should check it out in the future. We all know I adore Austen.

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