Beautiful Books: Designer Editions & Sets

Books like these are the reason I will never be able to convert to a Kindle. Yes, I understand that a Kindle is lightweight, easy to hold and able to store thousands of books at a time. But it doesn't have a cover that makes me smile, just looking at it.  It can't hold its own as a work of art sitting on a shelf. And it can't be collected with other Kindles and be transformed into more than the sum of its parts. Not like books. Not like these books, especially...

These are not inexpensive paperbacks that you toss into your bag for a commute or a trip to the beach. These are books to be savored, with beautifully crafted covers that celebrate the words within. If you're like me, you may remove such a cover to protect it, while reading the book. And that's okay. Because these are weighty books, inconvenient books, books designed to enhance one's reading experience, not expedite it. 

First Row:

  • J.D. Salinger Book Set, $175 - Juniper Books. Set of 4 includes The Catcher in the RyeNine StoriesFranny and Zooey and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. With this primary-colored collection, the author's name is spelled out across the set of spines, and each book is labeled by title individually. 

  • The First Edition Library, available individually or in sets - Juniper Books.   Facsimile replicas of first edition books featuring the first-printing artwork of each. Available series include Classic Literature (70 titles), Mystery (11 titles), Science Fiction (13 titles), James Bond (14 titles) and Published in Paris, Banned Books (3 titles). Shown: Mosquitoes by William Faulkner, The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever, The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer, Native Son by Richard Wright, Catch- 22 by Joseph Heller, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, The Adventures of Auggie March by Saul Bellow, From Here to Eternity by James Jones and On the Road by Jack Kerouac. (I received over two dozen of these as part of a book of the month program years ago and love them!)

  • Read Me Classics Set, $140 - Juniper Books. Set of 4 includes Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky and The Complete Stories by Edgar Allan Poe. Designed by Thatcher Wine, the set features the image an antique typewriter across the spines and the author's name in small print at the base of each book. 

  • Everyman's Library Poetry, $12.50 each - Everyman's Library. Shown here: Shelley, Keats, Shakespeare, Byron, Dickinson, Love Poems, Persian Poets, Love Letters, Love Songs and Sonnets and Indian Love Poems

  • The Great Food Series, approx. $12 each - Penguin Books.  A artful paperback collection of the most evocative food writing of the last 400 years, with covers designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith. The covers depict a ceramic shape and pattern historically relevant to the period of each book.

Second Row:

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald (Penguin Hardback Classics), $13-$17 each - Amazon. Shown: Flappers and PhilosophersThe Beautiful and the DamnedThe Last TycoonThe Great GatsbyTender is the Night and This Side of Paradise. Another collection designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith, the covers of these books are intended to evoke the jazz age of Fitzgerald's stories, while materially, "the combination of metallic foil and matte paper is designed to feel good in the hand as well as look good on the shelf." (I have one myself, and they definitely do!) 

  • Persephone Books, approx. $18 each - Persephone Books. Shown here: Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary by Ruby Ferguson, Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd, Saplings by Noel Streatfeild, Consequences by E.M. Delafield and Few Eggs and No Oranges by Vere Hodgson. Founded in 1999 by Nicola Beauman, Persephone Books is an independent publisher based in Bloomsbury, London that reprints (mostly) works by neglected female writers of the 20th century. The books are bound in dove gray, with simple cream labels, and feature endpapers made from a textile or print created around the same time that the book was originally published. (Full confession - I love these so much that I bought one while working on this post.)

  • Shakespeare for Schools - Kristina Bullen. A university project created by designer Kristina Bullen, this collection of books is aimed at junior-high and high-school level students and intended to "revitalize young people's interest in classical literature through vibrant and contemporary design." I love the summarizing bookmark that comes with each book and only wish the collection were available for purchase!

  • Penguin Clothbound Classics, $20-$22 each - Penguin Books. Shown: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. A collection that's become the modern standard in beautifully-bound books, these Coralie Bickford-Smith-designed books seek to represent great works of literature through pattern and an appreciation for Victorian bookbinding techniques.

  • Ernest Hemingway Set, $395 - Juniper Books. Set of 9 includes Across the River and Into the Trees, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Green Hills of Africa, Islands in the Stream, The Sun Also Rises, Death in the Afternoon, Selected Letters 1917-1961 and The Short Stories. A Juniper Books exclusive, the collection incorporates the author's signature into the overall cover design and lists individual book titles at the bottom of each spine.

Third Row:

  • Malcolm Gladwell: Collected, $50 - Amazon. Set of 3 includes The Tipping PointBlink, and Outliers. This nostalgic clothbound collection was designed by Paul Sahre, and features 1950s-inspired scientific drawings by illustrator Brian Rea.

  • Virginia Woolf (the Omega Workshop editions), approx. $22 each - Penguin Books. Designed by Angus Hyland, a collection of 5 of Virginia Woolf's best works - Mrs. Dalloway, Orlando, To the Lighthouse, A Room of One's Own and The Waves - is wrapped in abstracted versions of textiles created the Omega Workshop, a collective founded by the members Bloomsbury Group. 

  • Penguin Drop Caps, $22 each - Penguin Books. A rainbow-hued series of twenty-six collectible hardcover works of literature, featuring an illustrated letter of the alphabet by type designer Jessica Hische on each cover. Shown here (A-F): Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, My Antonia by Willa Cather, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Middlemarch by George Eliot and Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. 

  • Piano Keyboard 8 Book Set, $350 - Juniper Books. Set includes Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Odyssey by Homer, The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy and Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Designed to look like the octave of a piano keyboard, the keys that wrap each book were taken from a photo by Thatcher Wine of a 1930s Steinway. The title is listed in small print at the bottom of each book. 

  • Cook's Books Collection, $295 - Anthropologie.  A set of 5 hand-picked culinary classics, including American Cookery by James Beard, The Gourmet Cookbook by Ruth Reichl, The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook by Editors at America's Test Kitchen, The Essential New York Times Cook Book by Amanda Hesser and the 75th Anniversary Edition of The Joy of Cooking. An oversized graphic unifies the spines of this collection, while discreetly incorporating each title into its bold typography.


(Images: 1. Juniper Books, 2. Gilt Home via Pinterest, 3. Apartment Therapy, 4. Amazon, 5. Juniper Books, 6. Martha Stewart Weddings, 7. Kristina Bullen, 8. Coralie Bickford-Smith, 9. Gilt Home via Pinterest, 10. New York Times, 11. Pentagram, 12. Creative and Live, 13. Juniper Books via Fab, 14. Anthropologie, 15. Juniper Books)