Good design crosses the pond: Penguin Classics

penguin classicsThis 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.

Another Bickford-Smith creation

Another Coralie creation

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.

12 Responses to Good design crosses the pond: Penguin Classics

  1. Ti says:

    These covers are stunning. I am not a big fan of ebooks. I much prefer to hold a book in my hand. Holding an electronic device just doesn’t hold a candle to a well worn favorite.

    • Trisha says:

      I don’t mind ebooks for books I know I won’t read again . . . I think the future is e- or digital books for the most part and small print runs of beautifully designed editions for those of us who want a hard copy to re-read or keep in our libraries. At least, that would be my preference!

  2. Steph says:

    As I recently discovered the charms of Jane Eyre, I would be willing to shell out money for such a beautiful edition… but then again, I have long been known to buy books based on their (pretty) covers! I’ll pass on the Wuthering Heights though…😉

    I wonder why Madame Bovary and Crime & Punishment didn’t make the cut? Couldn’t get their passports in time?

  3. Melissa Mc says:

    Wow! These are fantastic!

  4. […] visit The Book Case from 6-10 p.m. CST. We will post a book-themed question and spiffy prize (hint: Good design crosses the pond: Penguin Classics). For four hours, Read-a-thon participants can take a break from their reading to post answers in […]

  5. […] our prize is copies of the new Penguin Classics editions of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith, […]

  6. […] Mail call – and a contest! Yes, it’s true—at BookPage, sometimes we get really, really excited about what has arrived in the day’s mail (see our fervor over the new Penguin Classics here). […]

  7. […] bring out the green monster in me: I’ll admit I considered entering contests for the Penguin Classics and Painting Today under a different […]

  8. laurie blum says:

    The Book Case is a wonderful blog — how awesome would it be to win free books!

  9. Jane says:

    Crime and Punishment are on ebay right now. I only see them popping up every once in a while.

  10. Brittany says:

    There are copies of both Crime and Punishment and Madame Bovary on Ebay now. Definitely worth it to complete the collection!

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