Cover Lust: Coralie Bickford-Smith

22 Feb

By Sammy Bina


I thought I’d do something a little out-of-the-ordinary today. Bear with me — it will hopefully be as awesome as the vlog I’d planned to do, but had no ideas for.

Moving on, how many of you have heard of Penguin (as in the major publishing house)?

Okay, good. That looks like most of you.

How many of you have seen the Penguin Classics series that grace the shelves of your local bookstore?

Looking good. Still got your attention? Excellent. Now for the kicker:

How many of you have seen the covers for the Penguin Hardback Classics?

If you haven’t, then I’d like to direct you to the website of London-based designer, Coralie Bickford-Smith. She’s the genius behind these gorgeous covers, as well as numerous other Penguin series. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, feast your eyes:

You’re already imagining them on your bookshelf, aren’t you? That was my first reaction when I saw them, too. They’re beyond gorgeous, and really hearken back to the days of old, cloth-bound books. The fact that these ones are all classics adds to the experience. Maybe it’s just me, but when I’m curled up with one of these on a chilly evening, a cup of cocoa in hand, I feel like I’ve been transported back in time. There’s something magical about a great book and a stunning cover. Coralie Bickford-Smith certainly helps with that. (I guess Jane Austin and Charles Dickens help, too.)

We all know the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but I’m fairly certain many of us disregard the rule. I know I do. If I’m in Barnes & Noble and I see a gorgeous cover, I’m going to pick it up. Even if it isn’t something I’d usually read, there’s a good chance I’ll buy it. Certainly something so gorgeous on the outside has to be brilliant inside, right? (Take Beth Revis’ ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. Stunning cover, awesome story.) Coralie Bickford-Smith’s covers are enticing. They make you want to pick up the book. Maybe even read it! In this day and age, where people are so worried about the book-pocalypse, it’s great to see people still turning out incredible looking books that encourage people to read. I’ll admit, I’m horribly under-read in the classics for someone who majored in creative writing, but these books have been remedying that problem at lightening speed. They’re a little hard to come by in the U.S., but Amazon sells them, and the almighty Book Depository has them in stock as well (and free shipping, too!). Stores like Urban Outfitters also carry them randomly.

So whether you just want your bookshelf to look sexy, or actually need a reason to pick up that book your high school English teacher suggested, now’s your chance. And you’ve got Coralie Bickford-Smith to thank for that.


Sammy Bina is finishing up her last semester of college as a creative writing major. She’s currently revising her YA dystopian, SILENCE, and is an intern for the Elaine P. English Literary Agency. You can follow her blog, or find her on twitter.


21 Responses to “Cover Lust: Coralie Bickford-Smith”

  1. Nicole February 22, 2011 at 12:38 AM #

    !!!! I discovered these a couple of weeks ago! Drop dead gorgeous. My favorite is probably Wuthering Heights and Oliver Twist. Tess of D’Urbervilles is growing on me, probably because I liked the book so much.

    • Sammy Bina February 22, 2011 at 1:10 AM #

      I think my favorite’s probably GREAT EXPECTATIONS! I love the chandeliers! Some of her covers for the other Penguin series are also fantastic.

  2. sdennard February 22, 2011 at 2:43 AM #

    My favorite has to be TREASURE ISLAND. Something about the parrots…

    Thanks for sharing, Sammy! One day (when I’m filthy rich ;)) I’ll fill a whole bookshelf with just her covers… It’ll be beautiful!

    • Sammy Bina February 22, 2011 at 3:06 AM #

      In terms of birds, I think I like the ALICE IN WONDERLAND one better, if only because it’s pink :-p

      And I’m right there with you. I plan to eventually accumulate all of them, one way or another! I mean, come on. That would be the sexiest bookshelf EVER. I imagine CB-S’s bookshelf looks fantastic.

  3. Elizabeth February 22, 2011 at 3:00 AM #

    Oh, I almost got Jane Eyre with that cover but the smaller, less expensive one caught my eye right after, lol.

    • Sammy Bina February 22, 2011 at 3:06 AM #

      I actually just started JANE EYRE today! My pretty copy won’t be here for a week or two, but my friend lent me her paperback to tide me over πŸ˜‰

      • Sarah February 22, 2011 at 5:23 PM #

        Oh, that’s cool – I have also just started ‘Jane Eyre’!

        And those covers are THE sex. They are going on my birthday list, which is already looking frighteningly long. I have to wonder what chairs have to do with ‘Emma’, though. :/


  4. Nhi Le February 22, 2011 at 3:46 AM #

    Oh my God, yes! How gorgeous are these covers? I remember using some of her covers as my inspiration for one of my Studio Arts portfolios back in the day…

    Unfortunately, I only have two of them as we speak. But do not fret – I will get more of them whenever I get the chance!

    And I confess – I am one of those (arguably) shallow people whose interest in a book will always, 9 times out of 10 – be piqued by how gorgeous I think the cover is. Some books are the exception I suppose, but yeah – if you have a good cover (especially of the Carolie Bickford Smith kind) – then you’ve already won me over. (:

    • Sammy Bina February 22, 2011 at 3:46 PM #

      I totally agree. It’s why so much money goes into cover design, especially in YA. Even if you don’t read young adult, you have to admit it’s a gorgeous isle to walk past in the book store.

  5. Rowenna February 22, 2011 at 10:13 AM #

    I saw these in a magazine as a Christmas gift idea…not only was I thrilled that gift ideas included books, but was In.Love with these covers. Gorgeous! Must buys for me: Alice in Wonderland and Picture of Dorian Gray (half points for favorite books, half points for cover-awesomeness)

    • Sammy Bina February 22, 2011 at 4:11 PM #

      I absolutely adore the ALICE IN WONDERLAND cover! And the contrast of the black and white for DORIAN GRAY. In fact, I just love them all – I should stop saying I like one more than the other :-p

  6. Aurora Blackguard February 22, 2011 at 10:51 AM #

    I totally loved PERSUASION but most awesome classic book ever has has has to be THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST πŸ˜€ I heart Oscar Wilde. although Austen gets major points for SENSE AND SENSIBILITY.

    • Sammy Bina February 22, 2011 at 4:12 PM #

      I just found out Coralie did a new cover for A TALE OF TWO CITIES, which is one of my all-time favorite classics. I’ve already got 3 copies, but I’m sure I’ll be buying a fourth now.

  7. Leah Scrimshaw February 22, 2011 at 12:00 PM #

    Oh, I know I’ve already commented on your blog about these, but I could’t resist commenting again. So pretty! I bought my sister Emma and the cloth-bound-ness just makes me smile! I wanted Madame Bovary, but due to it not having been reprinted, it’s insanely difficult to find a copy of. I just can’t pick a favourite. I keep deciding on one and then being like ‘Oooh, but what about so-and-so?’

    • Sammy Bina February 22, 2011 at 4:13 PM #

      The EMMA cover is pretty spectacular. I love the chair motif. I haven’t read MADAME BOVARY yet, but I plan to! You said you liked it, right?

  8. Alexander M Zoltai February 22, 2011 at 3:52 PM #

    Wow! The heck with old axioms. Good books should have good covers–just like people πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the Heads-up !!!

    • Sammy Bina February 22, 2011 at 4:13 PM #

      No problem! Everyone needs to know about these books, for sure.

  9. Vanessa Di Gregorio February 22, 2011 at 4:26 PM #

    I want to make love to those covers.


    • Sammy Bina February 22, 2011 at 5:09 PM #

      I know, right?

  10. kate February 22, 2011 at 5:54 PM #

    oh pretty books, how i love thee! i’m seriously crushing on these covers…since i first discovered their existence, i’ve been known to sneak peaks at them online and i daydream about owning pretty much all of them. i also am in love with b&n’s leatherbound classics.

  11. priscillashay February 22, 2011 at 8:11 PM #

    this is…kind of sort of related:

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