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Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers

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Jane Austen never goes out of style

Since the first publication of her six novels in the 19th century, she has delighted generations of fans with classic stories that have never changed—and countless covers that have. Jane Austen Cover to Cover compiles two centuries of design showcasing one of the world’s most beloved and celebrated novelists. With over 200 images, plus historical commentary, Austen trivia, and a little bit of wit, this fascinating and visually intriguing look back is a must for Janeites, design enthusiasts, and book lovers of every age.

224 pages, Hardcover

First published November 11, 2014

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About the author

Margaret C. Sullivan

6 books69 followers
I'm an author, but I'm a reader, too, and my reviews here are from a reader's perspective. I love Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and don't really consider genre when I'm choosing a book, so my list will be eclectic!

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 162 reviews
Profile Image for Amanda.
593 reviews431 followers
February 17, 2015
Holy moly did I enjoy this book. Every second was fascinating. I have always loved beautiful books, and seeing a whole book of my favorite author's covers was so fun. It was also fascinating learning about the history of the publication of her works, and how the books were interpreted with the changing times. I also have a new life goal to own the Peacock edition, and the beautiful 1890s editions of Emma and Sense & Sensibility, and any others of that gorgeous style. It makes me want to reread all of her works even more than I already did, and I can't wait to see what editions of her works come out next. Thank you to Margaret Sullivan for taking on this amazing and enormous endeavor.
Profile Image for Cata.
468 reviews76 followers
January 28, 2016
Comprei-o a achar que seria um livro bonitinho que me mostraria várias edições dos livros de Jane Austen e acaboi por ser mais que isso.
Tem factos, curiosidades, informações, citações e comentários mordazes. Adorei
ps: também tem a foto de uma edição de um livro da Austen com uma galinha na capa. Manquei com isso por algum motivo. Uma galinha. Num livro da Jane Austen. Acho que já vi de tudo agora (só que não)
Profile Image for Olga Godim.
Author 12 books70 followers
December 13, 2014
“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not the pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” – Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (the quote is included in the book).

This is a marvelous book, non-fiction of the best kind. It documents most known editions of Austen’s novels, their covers and illustrations, from the first modest printing of Sense and Sensibility in 1811 (print run of 750 copies) until now.
The photos on every page made me smile. My heart pulsed with joy the entire time it took me to read this book. It entertained and amused, educated and enlightened. It filled me with longing to re-read all Austen’s novels. I’ll do it in 2015. I also want to own this book. The one I read was a library loan, but I’ll get one of my own soon. After several lackluster DNFs in a row, I needed this jolt of pure pleasure to remind myself why I love reading.

The author structured her book by time periods, with a mini-essay for each and short write-ups about Austen’s many illustrators and cover artists over the past 200 years. Her special mention of Hugh Thomson – one of the leading illustrators in the end of the 19th century – found me in complete agreement. I looked up his work on the Internet: it’s amazing.
Actually, this book sent me to the Internet more than once, as I felt compelled to learn more about certain artists or publishers who tried their hands with Austen’s oeuvre. Some factoids I knew. Others were unknown to me:
As the world heaved into the conflicts that would define the earlier twentieth century, Jane Austen—or her writing, at least—was drafted into service. During World War I, British soldiers took her books into the trenches and barracks, and those who later suffered from shell-shock were often advised to read her novels to calm their nerves. Her stories, full of humor and free from melodrama, represented aspects of British society that the war had ripped away.
With the advent of the 20th century, the covers changed, reflecting more their own times than that of Austen. Some mid-20th century artists adhered to Regency style of dress and hair, contemporary for Austen, while others employed a more eclectic illustration mode: dresses a mix of Victorian and Regency fashions, hairstyles belonging to neither.
Such anachronisms were once a matter of course. In fact, publishers at this time felt no need to reflect details accurate to the setting. Many were content with images that merely conveyed a flavor of “the past”—whatever past they imagined it to be.
Many publishers adopted Austen’s books for their needs and reader contingents, with cover art adjusted accordingly. Some covers of mid-century romance publishers are kinda lurid, while the 1960s and 70s covers comply with the hip vogue… somewhat. Many covers have nothing to do with Austen or her time and everything to do with modern (for that era) readers. I wouldn’t even suspect an Austen novel from some of those covers, if they didn’t bear her name.
Occasionally, the covers are hilarious in their imagery, and so are Sullivan’s biting commentaries on them. She doesn’t pull her punches. I frequently laughed aloud as I read all night and couldn’t close the book.
One 1990s cover from Tor bears a tagline “Mom’s fishing for husbands – But the girls are hunting for love…” I wonder: did that tagline writer ever read any of Austen novels?
Sullivan poked fun at some of the more ridiculous modern covers but she highlighted outstanding ones too. She also dedicated a part of her book to Austen’s sidelines: movies and manga, zombie twists, abridged versions, and translations.
The language of the texts is beautiful and terse. Nothing extra, just like Austen, no attempt to embellish or elaborate. Sullivan’s book also skims a linked topic, the progression of book printing, from calf-skin covered books in Austen’s lifetime to cheap paperbacks of the 1940s and ebooks now.
One small press in particular issued an ebook (cover on page 130) with mistakes made in both the book title and the author’s name. Sullivan crucified that edition, but alas, there is a similar mistake in her own book. On page 223, in the credits for the cover art, both the artist’s name and the title of his painting were misspelled. I guess the proofreaders didn’t check art credits. They are printed vertically after all.
Despite this one insignificant glitch, it was a glorious book. Recommended to everyone.
My deepest gratitude goes to Jaylia3, who introduced me to this book. Her review (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) inspired me to order my library copy. Thank you, Jenny.

Profile Image for Amanda .
675 reviews13 followers
December 30, 2018
I picked this book up, expecting to see some pretty Austen covers to ooh and ahh over. But this book turned out to exceed my expectations. Sullivan provides a background to Austen' s life and books, as well as how the books were published in Austen's time through the present day. The book is sectioned based on how these works were printed, in Austen's time, before the introduction of the modern printing press through today, where the Internet, ebooks, and audiobooks abound.

I enjoyed reading the snippets about certain editions of Austen's works almost as much as I enjoyed drooling over the pictures. Another thing I was not expecting was Sullivan's snark, including brilliant take downs of some Austen book covers, including those from the 60s:

The portrayal of the Napoleonic-era Royal navy Captain Wentworth as the commander of a 1960s-era New England schooner is utterly egregious- he looks like he fell off an Old Spice bottle.

Sullivan pointed out how quick different sections of the market were quick to cash in on Austen's books. She critiqued one of the covers as follows:

More controversial than the additional context, however, is the cover, who soft focus and verdant background engendered its share of Internet snark for resembling so-called bonnet-pron, those chaste novels about the romantic and spiritual tribulations of Amish and Mennonite couples.

Overall, this book would be a great addition to any Austen-lover's library.
Profile Image for Sophie.
Author 2 books24 followers
October 17, 2014
I was asked if I would review Margaret C. Sullivan's latest book, Jane Austen Cover to Cover, and I was only too happy to! I had heard about this upcoming book and I was very much looking forward to it and already had it on my wish list!

I always knew that there were lots of different covers and editions of Jane Austen's novels - I own quite a few versions myself! - but I didn't realise how many there really were!

This book was absolutely fascinating to look through and spot ones I own, and how many I don't - and seeing how many editions I want to own! There is an unbelievable amount, many more than I ever imagined, some I recognised but others that were completely new to me! It really was amazing to see the wide range of publications and their interpretations of the books for the covers. There was everything ranging from beautifully simple to really quite funny and a little scary!

As well as all the book covers, there were well chosen quotes dispersed throughout the book which was a nice touch, and at the end of each chapter there was a short essay on something relating to Jane Austen, for example about her popularity in America, what Jane looked like or fashion in the era.

The quality, styling and visual appearance of the book is truly beautiful - it is full of brightly coloured images and photos of the book covers which makes it a lovely looking book, and it is well spaced out and while full of information, it doesn't feel crowded as you read.

The information itself is really fun and very informative, and it was interesting to learn about all the covers in their historical context and how the books changed depending on what was in demand, for example when mass-market paperbacks were produced as cheaply as possible so her work could be read by everyone. To see the different prices of the books change through the years was interesting, and as well as the publishers own description of the novel and the publication date, there was often some fun stories behind the more... peculiar and strange covers!

I was fascinated as I read through the book learning about all the covers and all the different languages her work has been translated into to, not to mention all the fan fiction which has been written. I also found it interesting to see how they would produce a new cover to link to a television adaptation which had recently come out - a clever marketing scheme!

This is a book which should grace the shelves of every Austen fan, in my opinion! It really is a very interesting and a very unique book and a fantastic way of celebrating 200 years of Austen's work.
Profile Image for Melody Schwarting.
1,402 reviews81 followers
May 6, 2020
Grab your cuppa, folks, this review is going to be a ride.

I'm the first to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of Jane Austen. Hear me out: I enjoy her books, but I'm not as much of a fan as I am of, say, Little Women or Anne of Green Gables. Multiple copies of both novels grace my shelves, and I have gotten copies of them just for their covers. I've memorized portions, acted out scenes in middle school, referenced the stories as online usernames, I'm literally wearing a Little Women shirt at this moment, et c.

Austen is a writer whom I enjoy and respect, but (as of now) she's not necessarily one to which I return with any frequency. I only have Mansfield Park left to read, and shall we say, I do not have the highest hopes for it. None of the main characters feel like "my" character, though I am partial to Catherine Morland.

All of this being said, I am utterly fascinated by Austen-mania. I struggle to think of another historical author with the dedicated following of Austen: the web adaptations, the endless movie/TV adaptations, the re-tellings, the Etsy merch, and, as Jane Austen Cover to Cover attests, the relentless editions of the novels.

I'm not really a book collector, in the sense that I will go out of my way for an edition that is first, hardcover, signed, et c. Most of my books are used paperbacks, and honestly, that's the medium I prefer handling. I own all of the Austen books, and they're all Barnes & Noble Classic editions, and they are so ugly I can't and also the footnotes think I have a vocabulary of 12. Yet, the endnotes are great, even if the forewards are ~edgy~ and 100% worth skipping. Unless the Jacqui Oakley edition comes back into print, which is unlikely, I will probably settle for (gasp!) a complete collection on Kindle and donate my copies posthaste.

All right, somehow, we are back on topic! In Jane Austen Cover to Cover, Margaret C. Sullivan takes us through the 200 years of publication history of Austen's novels. I promise this is way more interesting than I just made it sound. Within these pages, you can ooh and ahh over the first editions, see the genesis of the Peacock Edition, and follow the publication all the way to 2012, when this book was published.

I expected to enjoy Jane Austen Cover to Cover, but I really, really love it. Some of the covers are pure hilarity. See the Riverdale Classics edition of Northanger with a middle-aged Catherine, the Tor Mass-Market edition of Sense & Sensibility with Marianne and Elinor laying down the hot goss, and the Broadview Press Ltd. edition of Sense & Sensibility with, like, their granddaughters' ghosts or something. I laughed myself to tears at these covers. Actual tears. HarperTeen did a Twilight-style series of covers, y'all, and the world shall never cease to amaze me.

Other covers are drool-worthy. (The Jacqui Oakley editions would be here, but they were published after this book.) See Emma in Penguin's Threads edition, the Marvel Comics editions, and the many fashion-plated covers (period appropriate).

The 1996 Puffin Classics edition of Sense & Sensibility is a new favorite for me. Marianne and Elinor actually look like teenagers! I also have a ton of Louisa May Alcott books in that cover style, so I am partial to it, but here's to remembering that the ages of the heroines are as essential as period-appropriate costuming and hair.

Chuffed, indeed, I was to learn about an edition of Pride & Prejudice in which the period inaccuracies are actually too old to be accurate, rather than too new. Straight outta Poldark, this one.

Jane Austen Cover to Cover is a must-read for Austenites, fans of book covers, and lovers of reception history. Sullivan has brought the publishing history of Austen to life and I am grateful. I hope all my favorite classics get this kind of treatment.
Profile Image for Jaylia3.
752 reviews129 followers
September 17, 2014
Showcasing 200 years of Jane Austen book covers with large color photographs and entertainingly informative text, this is a book Austen fans will treasure, but really anyone interested in history, the evolution of book publishing, or changes in graphic art will have lots to enjoy in its pages. The covers chosen vary wildly, from gorgeous to hilarious, and the passages explaining their circumstances and putting them in historical context are fascinating.

In Austen’s own day each title was published in three volumes, bound demurely in what looks like leather and decorated with gold lettering and modestly patterned designs, but by the 1840’s the smooth ride of train travel had revolutionized life and reading habits so wonderful looking but inexpensive editions with brightly colored picture covers were sold in railway station bookstalls. The most stunning cover is maybe the Peacock edition of Pride and Prejudice published by George Allen in 1894, though there are more than a few contenders. Through the years there have been many variations: sweet covers, noir covers, psychedelic covers, tastefully classic covers, YA influenced covers, and even slightly risque covers. Since Austen has fans all over the world it’s only fitting that there’s a section of covers from around the globe, lettered in languages other than English.

Jane Austen Cover to Cover opens with a timeline that stretches from Austen’s birth to the first episode of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and it includes a brief synopsis of each novel and novel fragment in its final pages. I read a fully finished copy of this very lovely book provided without cost to me by the publisher through LibraryThing. The review opinions are mine.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,220 reviews1,651 followers
November 14, 2014
For more reviews, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.

Initially, I wasn’t so sure about Jane Austen Cover by Cover. I mean, obviously when the chance to review it came, I leaped on it like Caroline Bingley on an offer of marriage from a man of good fortune. A Christina in sight of anything having to do with Jane Austen must be in want of said item. I have zero self-control. Though I’ve managed to keep from adding every single terrible published fan fic of Austen’s novels to my Goodreads shelves, I can promise that I have an incredibly unhealthy to desire to read every single one. To say that I’m obsessed is to put the situation rather mildly.

Still, I was worried about having accepted Jane Austen Cover to Cover. How the heck would I possibly review this? I hardly review non-fiction titles and I’ve always struggled to do so. This seemed like it would be worse, since it consisted mostly of photos. Of course, one reviewing method is just to blabber on and on about how hard it is to review something. That’s working well so far.

Actually, though, Jane Austen Cover to Cover turned out to be so much more awesome than I had anticipated. The joy began when I opened the package containing it. The packaging on this book is gorgeous. Quirk spares no expense in putting together their books. This book is full color and the layout, fonts and colors induce eyegasms. Also, I swear this book smells better than any other review book I’ve ever gotten. I’m not much of a booksniffer and my allergies have been terrible, but I could smell its aroma as I read and I want to live in this smell.

Jane Austen Cover to Cover doesn’t hit every cover of every edition of Jane Austen, which is probably impossible and would be exhausting. Instead, Sullivan hits on some of the main indicative styles of the day, going into the logic (or lack there of) of various editions and the additional materials included within. There are occasional pages of historical information about Austen or the publication of her novels, which add some history and context.

Since you’re here reading my blog, I’m guessing that you would probably enjoy Jane Austen Cover to Cover. This sounds like a really big assumption, but it may not be. What makes Jane Austen Cover to Cover so much fun is the wittiness of Sullivan in her commentaries on the covers. Essentially, reading this book is like reading a well-researched, Jane-focused Cover Snark. If you enjoy my Cover Snark posts, this is probably worth a peruse. If you also love Jane Austen, you probably want to add it to your personal collection.

Sullivan helpfully includes some information on collecting and storing books at the end, rightly knowing that you will now want to buy all of the editions you can get your greedy book-loving hands on. I have never been a multiple edition book person—that seemed wasteful when I can only need one—but I suddenly have a strong desire to buy all the copies of Austen I can. Please save me from myself.
Profile Image for Meredith (Austenesque Reviews).
892 reviews308 followers
March 8, 2015
There are probably more than a few instances in every reader’s life when they have been induced to pick up or click on a book due to its outward appearance. When choosing cover, authors and publishers put a lot of thought into the audience they are trying to appeal to and often take great effort to package their book to attract and entice readers. Having been first published over two hundred years, Jane Austen’s books have seen many editions, reprints, and yes, lots of different and diverse covers. In this colorful and comprehensive compilation, author Margaret C. Sullivan takes readers on a visual journey of the many editions and covers that have housed the wonderful works written by Jane Austen.

This outstanding compilation is a true gem filled with beauty, information, and wit! I loved how these books were grouped and organized into separate chapters. These six chapters travel in chronological order beginning with the first editions published by Thomas Egerton and ending with a chapter devoted to the many different translated editions of Jane Austen works. There are large and lavish images of each cover with informative subsets and relevant Jane Austen quotes interspersed in between. All of which enhanced the interesting information and presented it in a stylish and tasteful way.

Besides the elegant visuals, my favorite element of this compilation was reading the hilarious and candid observations on covers made by Margaret C. Sullivan! Talk about acerbic wit!

“Persuasion’s Captain Wentworth appears to be alarmed by Anne Elliot’s décolletage, or perhaps that she seems to have forgotten to wear her stays.” – page 54

“…he looks like he fell off an Old Spice bottle.” – page 57

“Surely lovely Marianne and sensible Elinor weren’t as tight-lipped as these prim and dour maidens, with their thousand-yard stares and hair plastered over their ears. How is Willoughby supposed to clip a lock?” - page 98

“…she looks more like a girl going to a Goth prom than a character in a Jane Austen novel.” – page 127

LOL, right? It truly was interesting to think of what prompted publishers to choose the covers and styles they did. In addition, I found it fascinating to learn that many editions made changes to Jane Austen’s text!! Whether it is adding additional forwards and annotations, removing some of Elizabeth Bennet’s sauciness, or rewriting the text in a simpler language for young readers.

Jane Austen Cover to Cover is a treasure for ardent fans of Jane Austen and book-collecting! There is so much to discover from Ms. Sullivan’s thoughtful research, and the little touches she adds make this compilation everything that is elegant and enchanting! Off I go now to expand my own personal library!
Profile Image for Gillian.
458 reviews1,069 followers
November 29, 2014

4.5 stars

Originally posted at Writer of Wrongs

You guys, this book is my catnip. It combines several of my favorite things: Jane Austen, cover design, history, and humor. It's got a gorgeous cover and full-color pages and hilarious commentary.

Full disclaimer: this book was made for me. I'm coming in with a just Janeite bias. I've read every book multiple times over, I've seen every adaptation that I've heard of, I can quote lines from memory, and I even have Jane Austen band aids. And most important, I collect Jane Austen editions. I am a huge book hoarder and I love multiple editions of my all-time faves. Some of the books I've purchased are highlighted in this volume, which was pretty cool. If a long-lost relative died and left me tickets to a Jane Austen immersion manor across the sea, I'd be there in a heartbeat. So know going in that this book is a total Gillian book in every way.

I'm a cliche. I'm okay with it.


Jane Austen Cover to Cover is part coffee-table book, part history of the evolution of covers for Jane Austen's books, spanning from the old clothbound originals to the modern day designs and movie tie-ins. Each period in history includes clever commentary on the time period, and each batch of covers has detailed commentary as well on the make of the cover, the design philosophy, and the style. Frequently, this commentary is hilarious. Do not skip the small print, because there's snark in them thar pages. It's a delicate, sly kind of wit of which Jane would very, very approve. (Possibly not the jokes about how "unabridged" Mr. Tilney is belowstairs, but who knows. Maybe Jane was a broad.) (But seriously, some of those romance and foreign editions are hysterically bad.)

Many of the covers highlighted inside are gorgeous. And then there's the book itself, which is a work of art. The over-sized hardcover has this lovely velvet and gloss texture, and inside the colors are vivid and the type gorgeous. I found myself petting the book as I read. Poor fondled book. Normally I drink coffee while I read, but I wouldn't let aaaany foodstuffs get near the precious. When I finished, it went straight back on the Jane Austen altar where it belongs. If you have someone in your life who is either a) a cover design nerd b) a Janeite or c) a lover of pretty books, I'm pretty sure they'd love this as a holiday gift.

The only negative about Jane Austen Cover to Cover is that I now have to go shopping. It's like a giant fancy catalogue full of teasery. CURSE YOU, BOOK.

Profile Image for  ~Geektastic~.
232 reviews149 followers
January 11, 2016
I won a copy of this book from the publisher in a Booklikes.com giveaway.

I have to say that the first thing I judged about this book was its cover. Obviously. You can’t write a book about book covers without having a good one yourself, it just wouldn’t work. But the cover is lovely, if not groundbreaking, and looks especially nice sitting on a coffee table for casual perusal.

Cover to Cover is a visual history of the covers that have graced-and disgraced-Jane Austen’s work, from her first printing to the newest editions (as of 2014). It is not comprehensive, but it gives a very good range of design choices, showing how each generation of publishers has approached Austen differently and how marketing and aesthetic changes have reshaped her work for each new generation of readers. There is quite an array, beginning with the plain boards of the first printings, and moving through the first “scholarly” and collectors editions, the mass market oddities meant to capture the great unwashed, the rather dull “large manor house” academic covers, and even some of the new designs that are emerging as print books try to recapture the reading public as objects, like vinyl in the age of digital. Sullivan gives us large, full-color pictures of gorgeous (and not so gorgeous) Jane Austen covers, along with a helpful overview of Austen’s publication history, and the art/pop culture movements that influenced particular design choices.

There are some really horrible covers in here. Romance and gothic-inspired ones from the 60’s and 70’s are the absolute worst, but the tween-oriented, Twilight-inspired ones from just a few years ago are also terrible. Sullivan gives them the benefit of the doubt; they may have pulled in a few unsuspecting vampire-loving teenagers. And this is my only real complaint: for a book that contains so many egregious sins against the novels, there is very little snark, and I was really hoping for a brutal teardown of the worst examples. Sullivan is not totally supportive of each design choice, but she was certainly kinder than I would be.

Jane Austen’s work is in the public domain, and has been for some time, so there really is a plethora of diverse options out there. From (misspelled) ebook “covers” to $500 collector’s items, there are more choices than any one book could ever cover and still remain interesting. The structure of this book, and the research and editing process required to balance chronology with interest, is commendable. Her style is clear and obviously well-researched, so no complaints there either. No complaints at all, really, except maybe a little lack of the witty edge I’m always hoping for in anything pertaining to Jane Austen.

I usually have trouble enjoying books that just tackle the surface of Austen’s work, but this provides enough of the writing and printing history of the books to keep it more interesting than a mere pictorial tour. It is not densely academic, but like I mentioned earlier, it isn’t meant to be comprehensive, nor should it be. I would recommend this to any design nerd, book nerd, Austen nerd, or combination thereof without reservation. It’s got Jane Austen covered. (Sorry).
Profile Image for Rikke.
615 reviews650 followers
January 1, 2015
A beautifully crafted coffee-table book that made me want to become a rare bookcollector myself. Not only is it beautifully designed, it is also well-structured and holds some various bits of insightful information and reflection upon the way bookdesign has been affected by the trends and tendencies of its particular time. The point is of course that while Jane Austen's stories never change, our perception of them do.

I could have wished for further explanation on why the writer chose to include the covers she did. What made her select the particular editions and exclude other? What did she look for, and what did she want us, the readers, to see?

Of course the book couldn't have included every edition of Austen's novels since their publication. It would have been too immense a task and an entirely different book. In order to maintain the book's elegance some editions would have to be excluded. But which ones? Especially the chapter on translated editions published in different contries struck me as being rather selective and messy. I would have liked to know more about the reasoning behind them.

But then again, that would perhaps have resulted in a different book. And until that complete book is written and published, this one will have to make do as what it is; a pretty coffee-table book with pretty pictures of beautiful, odd and funny editions of Austen's timeless novels.
Profile Image for Nadia.
780 reviews35 followers
September 11, 2016
This is a great album for all Jane Austen lovers. Have all principal editions of all novels with Margaret Sullivan point of view on them. With some I agree with some I do not but nevertheless it's a great thing to have in one's collection. Saves you from the urge to hunt and buy them all. Or not :) Well, I'm still searching for edition with Brock's illustrations.
Profile Image for Hannah.
251 reviews5 followers
March 4, 2022
Not bad! But I hoped for a little more fun facts and historical commentary. It was fun to see the covers and editions over the ages, but I was hoping for just a bit more I guess!
Profile Image for Laura Bang.
631 reviews17 followers
September 8, 2019
This is such a delightful and well-presented look at some of the covers that have graced Austen's books over the decades. Obviously it's impossible to be comprehensive, but Sullivan provides a very good sampling, with snarky comments when warranted. It's fascinating to see how the book as an object/art form has evolved, how tastes (and marketing tactics) have changed, and how Austen's novels have endured through it all.
Profile Image for Kaley.
338 reviews66 followers
January 25, 2016
Originally reviewed at Books Etc.

I love Jane Austen (though I wouldn't call myself a Janeite, not yet anyway) and I love book covers (especially pretty ones) so I was really excited for Margaret C. Sullivan's book, Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers, published November 2014.

This book pretty much lived up to every expectation I had. It was set up in a really aesthetically pleasing way, which made the reading experience so much better. Each page had one cover and a write up. It was clean and allowed you to really absorb every cover individually.

The chapters were divided by years, which I really liked. Chapter One featured the books as they looked when Austen was still alive and it carried on until Chapter Four, which shared the covers up until 2013. Chapter Five featured the movie covers and Six was all about foreign covers.

In addition to talking about covers through the years, the book also shares background information about Austen's life and the book cover process. There were also quotes from the novels, letters from Austen to family members, and biographies. Some of the information was already known to me (I knew, for example, that Austen was not credited as the author on her novels; instead, "By a Lady" was used) but other new tidbits stood out to me. I learned that the binding of books in Austen's time was quite interesting. It was done all by hand and the printed papers were "bound in plain cardboard binding called 'boards'" and "a paper label with the book's title was pasted onto the spine." (page 19) If that sounds flimsy to you, that's because theses covers were not meant to be forever. Wealthy book buyers would recover their books so their library would have a distinctive style. Amazing.

This book is a really quick read since it's a lot of images and a smaller amount of text. You can flip through the book quickly to see all the different covers but I suggest really taking the time to read each description and learn more about why a cover was designed a certain way. The pretty pictures are great but that small bit of text is what elevates the book to the next level.

Margaret C. Sullivan's book is a great one to leave out on the coffee table for guests to peruse. You can even make a game out of it...which cover is each guest's favourite? Mine, for the record, is Random House's Modern Library redesign of Pride and Prejudice, found on page 135. (I love Penguin Threads, just not the one of Emma that's featured in the book.) If you're a Jane Austen fan and love pretty covers, like me, you're definitely going to want to pick up Jane Austen Cover to Cover.

*A copy of this book was provided by Chronicle Books in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*
Profile Image for Kim.
1,976 reviews65 followers
January 25, 2015
This review originally appeared on Austenprose: http://austenprose.com/2015/01/23/jan...

In my opinion, the true sign of loving a book is owning multiple copies and versions of it. For example, I myself own six different copies of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. Over the years, I’ve found annotated versions, paperbacks, hardcovers, illustrated, vintage, and many other types of printings. I enjoy collecting different copies to compare covers, prefaces, introductions, and illustrations (if they have them.) I love finding new and used bookstores and scouring the shelves for new copies of my favorite books. As a collector will tell you, you can never have enough. I was therefore understandably excited to receive a copy of Jane Austen Cover to Cover by Margret Sullivan, which is a great companion for any Austen collector.

Cover to Cover is a collection of various Jane Austen covers, from the first printing of Sense and Sensibility to modern covers printed around the world. Interlaced with these covers are descriptions and historical facts, including a mini-biography of Austen’s life, as well as tips on collecting Austen’s works for the mini-librarian in all of us. Pertinent and humorous quotes are sprinkled in as well, along with the beautiful images of the covers themselves. There’s also even a section displaying and discussing the covers of the movie adaptations of Austen’s works.

At first glance, I thought this book would be a perfect coffee table companion and a great conversation piece. It’s larger than an average novel, and it has an interesting collage of various Austen covers on its cover. I was really impressed with Sullivan’s commentary. It was very well researched, and didn’t read as a history lesson, but rather from one fan to another. She took the time to make what she was writing appealing, and her words pair well with the glossy covers that abut them.

I really enjoyed learning about the international editions, some of them had some really funny 60’s and 70’s pulp covers that looked like the noir covers you’d find on old mystery books. On the other hand, you can’t help but admire the famous “peacock cover” of 1894. I even have a tee shirt with this cover on it from Out of Print.com! With all of these interesting covers to peruse, it’s easy to get lost in this book. I’m already looking forward to my next trip to the bookstore so that I can increase my collection (much to my husband’s chagrin!) For those of you with an Austen lover in your life, this Valentine’s Day would be a perfect time to gift this book!
Profile Image for Victoria.
507 reviews4 followers
August 6, 2016
This books is wonderful. I knew it would be the moment I picked it up (yes, I chose it for its cover). Margaret C. Sullivan does an excellent job presenting the covers in such an engaging way. Every page featured colour photographs of the cover in question, and a well researched blurb about the edition. I loved seeing the covers from the mid 20th century, and was very pleased to see my favourite tongue-in-cheek cover from 2013 of a shirtless Colin Firth!Darcy smoking, gazing off the page.

The humour in the blurbs makes for such an enjoyable read, it's not all scholarly and dry. It was a beautiful balance. I actually went downstairs to check my RED series box set after the books said that Northanger Abbey was missing - it appears they have corrected the mistake!
Profile Image for Kirk.
453 reviews37 followers
April 9, 2018
I must admit that when I saw the title, I was wondering if the topic would hold my interest. I'm not a book collector. I should have known that Margaret C Sullivan would knock it out of the park(Mansfield?). As always, so witty and informative.
Profile Image for Heatherblakely.
1,156 reviews7 followers
December 22, 2019
I’ve had this sitting around since I went to Austin (ha!) in 2017. I picked it up every few months, learned a little, and then put it down again.

It’s an interesting collection, showcasing the traditional covers as well as more modern takes on Austen, movie/miniseries tie-ins, languages besides English, etc. My only issue was that the writer fell into the trap of describing romance in a way that makes it seem like a lesser genre; unhappy when others boiled Austen down as “only” romance but not realizing how condescending it is to speak of romance that way. Romances can be fluffy, for sure, but it’s also possible to write romances that are political and smart.
Profile Image for Helen.
1,105 reviews60 followers
June 1, 2020
You know what I love? A great coffee table book. I have had this for several years and I have enjoyed reading a couple pages every couple of months but I have not read the whole thing. Well, during this stay at home time I have remedied that. Over three days I read it and absolutely loved it. If you are a fan of Jane Austen then this book will make you smile and make you realize that there are other people that are big as fans as you. This book goes into the history of her book covers and it was so interesting with numerous tongue n cheek comments. A great read and an even better coffee table book that will make people want to pick it up.
Profile Image for Steven.
Author 44 books160 followers
October 2, 2020
This book uses photos of 200 years of covers on Jane Austen’s novels to show how books have changed over time at least in packaging & marketing.

Learned a few bits of trivia on Austen I’d not previously known. Mostly left this knowing it’d be a great reference to teach the history of publishing & books
Profile Image for Kathryn.
692 reviews18 followers
January 25, 2021
Really enjoyed this!
I set a reading goal this year to read (at least) three Jane Austen novels. I am supplementing with books about her and her writing and this was an enjoyable one. An oversized hardcover (not quite a coffee table book but close), it has color photos of book covers from a variety of publishers/editions with commentary. A quick and easy read with Austen quotes used as illustrations throughout.
Profile Image for Lucy.
356 reviews31 followers
April 9, 2022
4.5 stars

Filled with so much more in depth knowledge about collectors themselves in the 19th century, translated issues etc then I could have imagined.
Profile Image for TheGeekyBlogger.
1,458 reviews177 followers
October 19, 2014
Read/Looked for Review (Quirk)
Overall Rating: 5.00
Photograph Rating: 5.00
History Rating: 5.00

Review: Words cannot express how much I LOVED Jane Austen Cover to Cover by Margaret C. Sullivan. If you are a Jane Austen fan there is plenty of history in this about the covers, printings, and tidbits about Jane. If you are a cover fan, you will love the 100s of ways these covers have been imagined (both English and non-English covers). This went on my Jane Austen shelf and I saw several covers I would love to get my hands on! This is a MUST for any Austenite!

Favorites: Oddly enough my favorite covers were of my least favorite book: Persuasion! Though I can see where that one gives to a lot of creative freedom!


Least Favorites: I hate this trend on YA and Erotic novels. So it is no surprise I didn't like Jane Austen getting the treatment: The flower, apple, whatever cover!

Northanger AbbeyPride & PrejudiceSense and Sensibility

PS: Perhaps my favorite giggle moment was the "bodice ripper" inspired covers. They could have given Harlequin and Avon a run for their money!
Profile Image for Anna.
473 reviews30 followers
November 3, 2017
Quick summary: In Jane Austen Cover to Cover, Margaret C. Sullivan showcases the cover designs of Jane Austen’s work over the past 200 years, from the first editions to beautiful collectors’ editions to the quirky and the silly. Sullivan highlights translated editions, movie tie-in covers, and covers meant to attract a younger audience. But this book is more than just a collection of covers; Sullivan goes into detail about the history of book publishing and how advances in the printing press and even the popularity of rail travel put Jane Austen’s novels into the hands of mainstream readers. Complete with color images, information about each edition, and quotes from Austen’s novels, Jane Austen Cover to Cover is a must-read for Austen fans.

Why I wanted to read it: I was intrigued by the premise and curious if any of the books in my own Austen collection would be featured. Of course, that meant the minute I received the book, I dropped everything, started perusing, and found a few of the editions I own…and plenty I want to own!

What I liked: I loved everything about this book, but most especially I loved that it was more than just cover images. Sullivan definitely did her homework, and it’s obvious how much she enjoyed this project. I learned a lot about how books were made in Austen’s time and how much the process has changed, and I had a few laughs as well, particularly at a cover of Persuasion that portrays “the Napoleonic-era Royal Navy Captain Wentworth as the commander of a 1960s-era New England schooner” looking “like he fell off an Old Spice bottle.”

What I disliked: Absolutely nothing!

Final thoughts: Because of their popularity over two centuries, Jane Austen’s novels are perfect for highlighting trends in the publishing industry. Jane Austen Cover to Cover covers a lot of ground and even provides advice for readers looking to start their own collections and stay within budget. Most importantly, it reminds Austen fans what first drew them to her novels and which novel was the first in their collection. Jane Austen Cover to Cover is worthy of being added to a Janeite’s collection and would make a great last-minute Christmas gift.

Review posted on Diary of an Eccentric
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