Book Love

14 Iconic Covers from Classic Books, illustrated by Jane Mount

You’ve been told not to judge books by their covers, but sometimes the cover is so darn good that you’d be a fool not to. Hence: these portraits of noteworthy book covers from the 20th century, illustrated by Jane Mount.

Jane is not only the beloved artist and founder of Ideal Bookshelf, but she’s also about to be a published author by yours truly. Her forthcoming book Bibliophile is a love letter to all things bookish; literary people, places, and things all come to life with her signature and vibrant illustrations. Filled with the world’s most beautiful bookstores and libraries, curated bookstacks, author workspaces, bookstore cats, and more, it’s for people who live and breathe books.

Bibliophile by Jane Mount

You can learn more about Bibliophile over here. Now, onto the book covers:


1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Art by Francis Cugat | Scribners 1925 hardcover

From Jane: Fitzgerald was still writing the novel when Cugat, a Spanish artist, was hired to illustrate the cover. The writer loved it and told his publisher that he had “written it into the book.” It was the only cover Cugat ever designed, and he was paid $100 for it.

2. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Art by Rockwell Kent | Random House 1930 hardcover


3. Three Lives by Gertrude Stein

Design by Alvin Lustig | New Directions New Classics hardcover 1945

From Jane: Lustig designed more than 70 amazing modern covers for New Directions’ New Classics series (see The Day of The Locust below). He worked on the series right up until his death in 1955, at age 40, from diabetes that he’d developed as a teenager.

4. The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

Design by Alvin Lustig | New Directions New Classics hardcover 1950


5. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Art by Nell Booker | World Publishing Co. 1946 hardcover


6. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

Design by E. Michael Mitchell | Little, Brown 1951 hardcover

Salinger had strong opinions about the covers of his books and insisted the only copy that could appear on them were his name and the book’s title (no blurbs, bios, or summary). He and Mitchell, who drew the carousel horse, had been friends for over 40 years, having met as neighbors in Westport, Connecticut.

7. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Design by Edward McKnight Kauffer | Random House 1952 hardcover

McKnight Kauffer designed advertising posters, including many for the London Underground and American Airlines. He considered book jackets to be mini-posters.

8. Chance by Joseph Conrad

Art by Edward Gorey | Doubleday Anchor 1957 paperback

Gorey is better known for the books he both wrote and illustrated, like The Gashlycrumb Tinies, but he also designed many covers while working in the Doubleday art department in the 1950s.

9. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Design by George Salter | Random House 1957 hardcover


10. The Dubliners by James Joyce

Design by Ellen Raskin | Compass 1959 paperback


11. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Design by Shirley Smith | Lippincott 1960 hardcover


12. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Design by Paul Bacon | Viking Press 1962 hardcover

Bacon designed covers for more than 6,500 books and was known for the “big book look,” with large type and simple, colorful imagery. About the design process, he once said, “I’d always tell myself, ‘You’re not the star of the show. The author took three-and-a-half years to write the goddamn thing, and the publisher is spending a fortune on it, so just back off.’”

13. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Design by Shirley Tucker | Faber 1966 hardcover

To create the unforgettable cover image, Tucker used a drafting compass to make wider and wider circles, then cropped it perfectly.

14. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Design by David Pelham | Penguin 1972 paperback


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For more bookish gems like this, be sure to check out Bibliophile.

Jenna Homen

Jenna Homen

Content and Community Manager at Chronicle Books. When she's logged off, she can be found painting, cooking, camping, or petting her dog Harley. You can follow her on Twitter at @jn_na.
Jenna Homen


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