If you love literature, you’ll love this book. If you love design, you’ll love this book. If you love both? You’ll lose your mind over this book.
In the foreword to Classic Penguin: Cover to Cover, Audrey Niffenegger writes: “They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. But when the book is a classic, you don’t have to – that book has already been judged many times over whilst sporting wildly different covers. A classic book has survived and endured great and egregious designs; it carries its world in its title and the name of its author. It is more than the sum of its covers.”
In the pages of Classic Penguin, you’ll read about editions you may already be aware of, like the Black Spines collection and the gorgeous Deluxe Classics (which I’ve gushed over before).
You may also discover editions that you now lust after, like the Penguin Galaxy collection, which I’ve never even seen before, along with the Civic Classics and Miller Classics. I added a bunch of titles to my wish list, like the Penguin Deluxe Classics edition of Crime & Punishment, illustrated by Zohar Lazar who said this about the design: “I modelled his expression (hand to his face) after my own when I realized that I had been assigned the cover of CRIME AND FUCKING PUNISHMENT.” I also really want the Penguin Deluxe Classics edition of Les Misérables, which I spotted a while ago at a bookstore and have been thinking about ever since.
Classic Penguin also includes a section on the Instagram-famous Drop Caps collection, with their lovely ornamental lettering and vibrant colour palette. You can study these covers in detail and get close enough to notice things you might have missed before, like the coffee & madeleine on Proust’s Swann’s Way, and the fact that the letter “g” on William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is actually a pair of cracked glasses. Brilliant.
Penguin Horror and Christmas Classics are both smaller collections that would make great gifts for someone who really deserves them. Like me.
The main reason I wanted to read Classic Penguin was to find out what went into the Penguin Threads collection. If you’ve never seen these in person, go down to your local bookstore (if you still have one of those) and look for them in the children’s classics section. This series was inspired by a stitched portrait that Paul Buckley, Creative Director, purchased on Etsy. Jillian Tamaki & Rachell Sumpter are the illustrators behind these lovelies. The cover for Black Beauty actually won a gold medal from the Society of Illustrators, but I think The Wizard of Oz is my favourite. The detailing on the poppies is just insane.
Part of me thinks that Classic Penguin: Cover to Cover should have been a big, beautiful hardcover book. Something I could put on my coffee table along with fancy books on art and travel. But instead it’s a perfectly acceptable paperback that fits in my bookshelf. Either way, it’s essential for any booklover’s collection. This is #bookporn at its best.