Classics You Want to Pick Up

Publishers are giving classics a new look.

Today, you can get just about any classic you want to read for free. The Gutenberg project boasts 33,000 titles available as e-books. Their top one hundred downloads are almost entirely classics including Pride and Prejudice, Huckleberry Finn, Sherlock Holmes, Grimm’s Fairy Tales and such. Other sites, like Page by Page and Classic Reader also offer extensive catalogs of classics for free download.

So it is interesting to me that with all these free e-book editions, and the much-predicted demise of the book as we know it, publishers are offering us numerous editions of the classics in newly designed – I hate to use the word – packages. For decades, the classics were graced with images of old masters. Now we are seeing unexpectedly new and often vibrant art on the covers.

I particularly like the Penguin Deluxe Classics with Ruben Toledo covers and French flaps. They have a very appealing surreal, high fashion, urban look to them. Young. Fresh. Maybe a little rebellious.

Vintage is using some Katherine Wolkoff photographs. The cover of Jane Eyre is a moody black and white silhouette of a woman’s head; her wispy hair tied back, her face turned slightly down. Quiet. Suggestive of the hidden.

I also love the tiny hardcovers with gilt edges and bound-in ribbon markers from the British Collector’s Library. They fit in your hand and are inexpensive. It feels good to hold one.

These books look great. They draw you to them. You want to pick them up. And, in ways markedly different from the old masters style covers, they are evocative of the stories within.

Modernly old-fashioned, they are a pleasure to behold. And read. I am pleased that in this era of the great rush to the library in the cloud, publishers are still making attractive editions of our favorite books. Posted by Suzy.

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