Austen’s imagination and intellect transcended the fiction of her own time and created the cherished characters and timeless stories for which she is still celebrated today. No matter how beautiful, tacky, infuriating, beguiling, silly, or strange the packaging may be, the story inside never changes. And that, after all, is the most important thing.
(from Jane Austen Cover to Cover)
Quick summary: In Jane Austen Cover to Cover, Margaret C. Sullivan showcases the cover designs of Jane Austen’s work over the past 200 years, from the first editions to beautiful collectors’ editions to the quirky and the silly. Sullivan highlights translated editions, movie tie-in covers, and covers meant to attract a younger audience. But this book is more than just a collection of covers; Sullivan goes into detail about the history of book publishing and how advances in the printing press and even the popularity of rail travel put Jane Austen’s novels into the hands of mainstream readers. Complete with color images, information about each edition, and quotes from Austen’s novels, Jane Austen Cover to Cover is a must-read for Austen fans.
Why I wanted to read it: I was intrigued by the premise and curious if any of the books in my own Austen collection would be featured. Of course, that meant the minute I received the book, I dropped everything, started perusing, and found a few of the editions I own…and plenty I want to own!
What I liked: I loved everything about this book, but most especially I loved that it was more than just cover images. Sullivan definitely did her homework, and it’s obvious how much she enjoyed this project. I learned a lot about how books were made in Austen’s time and how much the process has changed, and I had a few laughs as well, particularly at a cover of Persuasion that portrays “the Napoleonic-era Royal Navy Captain Wentworth as the commander of a 1960s-era New England schooner” looking “like he fell off an Old Spice bottle.”
What I disliked: Absolutely nothing!
Final thoughts: Because of their popularity over two centuries, Jane Austen’s novels are perfect for highlighting trends in the publishing industry. Jane Austen Cover to Cover covers a lot of ground and even provides advice for readers looking to start their own collections and stay within budget. Most importantly, it reminds Austen fans what first drew them to her novels and which novel was the first in their collection. (Mine was this tattered edition of Pride and Prejudice.) Jane Austen Cover to Cover is worthy of being added to a Janeite’s collection and would make a great last-minute Christmas gift. Check out this article in The Guardian for a glimpse of some of the covers and the humor featured in the book.
Disclosure: I received Jane Austen Cover to Cover from Quirk for review.
© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.