This week’s mail brought something beautiful to BookPage: a set of Penguin’s new clothbound classics. Designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith and previously available only at Waterstone’s bookstore in the UK, these new jacketless hardcovers pair early 20th-century styling with classic content.
The eight titles available in the US are Great Expectations, Wuthering Heights, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Cranford, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Jane Eyre and The Picture of Dorian Gray. (Links go to images of each book.) Each retails at $20 and contains a ribbon bookmark. In a nod to their stylish appearance, the books will be sold at Anthropology and Urban Outfitters as well as your local bookstore. More titles—including Madame Bovary and Crime and Punishment—are available in the UK; if the series proves popular here, perhaps they’ll make the jump as well.
Bickford-Smith is a senior designer at Penguin UK, and is responsible for some of the more memorable Penguin Classic covers that have appeared over the past few years. In a recent interview, she gave her designer’s perspective on the ebook phenomenon:
Electronic books are inevitably going to impact physical publishing, but the printed book is a very successful technology in its own right and I don’t think it will be entirely displaced. For all the advantages of ebooks—portability, interactivity, production and distribution savings—there’s something potent about the physical object that will always have a strong appeal. I like to think that as the volume of physical books declines, the average quality of the design will increase, because books will have to work harder to justify their physical presence.
I think she’s right. Her designs have tempted me to buy a physical book more than once—even though free editions of all these classics are readily available online. How about you? Will you be replacing your tattered copy of Pride and Prejudice or Tess with one of Coralie’s designs?
More about the series can be found on Penguin UK’s blog.