Book 347: Jane Austen Cover to Cover – Margaret C. Sullivan

Sullivan, Margaret C. - Jane Austen Cover to CoverThe amazing and wonderful Sarah of Sarah Reads Too Much sent this book to me knowing how much I love Jane Austen and I’m so glad she did! You can check out her review of the book here.

Please, don’t misjudge my response, I THOROUGHLY enjoyed the book. I just have strong opinions on Austen and I definitely went off on a tangent. I mean Sullivan clearly loves Austen AND she convinced me to give the graphic novel adaptations a go, that’s something right!?

This was an interesting book in that it was a very brief look into book making, cover design, copyright, book collecting and international publishing. That being said, it wasn’t quite what I thought it was going to be. The subtitle, “200 Years of Classic Covers,” would be better listed as “200 Years of Covers we randomly had access to.” Now that might sound a bit harsh, but I honestly thought this was going to be an attempt to catalogue the hundreds (if I’m honest probably thousands) of covers of Jane Austen’s works. And it just wasn’t.

2014 12-09 Pride & Prejudice SplurgeApparently, the covers in this book were those that they were able to obtain rather quickly. For example my beautiful copy of Pride and Prejudice (to the right) was not included which is a shame. My reading copies (Signet Classics Series), all three versions did appear.

Now don’t get me wrong, I was happy with what was included, but I was honestly hoping for a definitive list of, at the very least, American editions published. There didn’t need to be photos of all of them, but just a list would’ve made me so happy. I do understand it is hard, because many publishers republish under the same ISBN and imprint with different covers, like the Signet Classic Series. But the biggest bone I have to pick with Classics publishers are the classic painting covers.

I understand why they do it, for the aesthetic, but I don’t like them. (And yes I know I am in a very small minority.) I’d prefer something whimsical like the Penguin Red Classics, click here to view Mansfield Park, which honestly look a lot like the above, or the Classic Lines editions by Splinter/Sterling Publishing which I’ve bought for a friend, click here to see a couple – I FULLY plan on buying that Wuthering Heights. And honestly, I’d even prefer the Vintage Classic Editions by Random House, click here for a small photo of all the covers, to the painting ones because they’re unique and I like them.

The one other thing that perturbed me, was what I think is a factual error. I’ll have to re-watch the 2005 film again, but in this book on page 159, Sullivan discusses movie tie-in editions and she describes the scene wrong. Of COURSE this is tiny minutiae, but because it was SO important for the film it bothered me. I’m 99% sure the scene takes place at Netherfield after Jane has fallen ill and everyone has gone to collect her. Darcy touches Elizabeth’s hand un-gloved helping her into the carriage and it’s like OMG swoon. And then there’s the super-close-up of his hand fully tensed and you’re like WHOA his feelings have changed for her. So yeah, it’s minor, but it drove me crazy that it’s wrong in the book. It’s wrong in the highest search on Google, and I’m like COME ON.

I am sure this response comes off a lot harsher than it is and I don’t mean it to be. I truly loved flipping through and seeing all the covers and learning the random facts I did, but for someone who has an entire page dedicated to Austen and if possible would copy-edit/complete the internet (yeah I know OCD much?) it fell short for me.

Recommendation: Don’t misjudge the review, I thought this was an EXCELLENT collection.The full color photos and the descriptions of the processes for printing and copy-writing were incredibly informative. It just fell short for me because I’m neurotic and LOVE Jane Austen. I particularly enjoyed the foreign language edition covers of mostly Pride and Prejudice and I cannot wait to try to find a copy of it and Wuthering Heights in Spanish when I go to Spain this summer. And I loved that Sullivan included tips on collecting books at the end.

Opening Line: “Never judge a book by its cover.”

Closing Line: “No doubt she would have been delighted with her legacy.” (Not whited out as this is a work of nonfiction.)


8 thoughts on “Book 347: Jane Austen Cover to Cover – Margaret C. Sullivan”

    1. I’m honestly not sure, but it was mentioned that they were books found in used stores or scanned photos sent. So it didn’t seem like an exhaustive search.


  1. I enjoyed this but also felt a little let down by the breadth of the collection and I wished there had been more thoughtful discussion of the covers as well. I felt like the discussion of how the covers changed through the ages was very superficial and could have been better connected to social changes.

    Liked by 1 person

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