Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Orwellian REcovers

Since the recent leaks and revelations of the NSA surveillance program and the controversy over privacy rights, George Orwell's, 1984, has been at the top of many Summer reading lists. Are we all angry and paranoid readers? It would seem so. Currently, this classic dystopian novel sits at No. 56 on Amazon's top 100 bestsellers list; up from 12,507 just a week ago. That is an astonishing rise in sales of nearly 6000% for a book that was first published 64 years ago! And Amazon keeps track of all of our purchases in case the NSA needs this data as well. 
     Today seems like a perfect day for Letterology to take a look at some of the many published and unpublished portrayals of Orwell's popular book. The first unpublished example seen above is a particularly brilliant solution by the Adronaut design team, Patrick Pichler and Wolfgang Warzilek in Vienna. Below is one of my all-time favorite Penguin reissues designed by David Pearson.   

1984 as portrayed by Jon Vallance above. The three images below are of an unpublished 1984 version by Travis Roofa former student in my book design course at Seattle Central Community College in the Fall of 2009. A particular favorite of mine;)

Joanna Weiner's unpublished 1984 interpretation realizes a text solution. 

Artist Hadyn Symons in the UK cleverly illustrates his Orwell classic. Below is another unpublished example. This one by designer Emily Kouri.

This list of REcovers would be incomplete without this imagined version by Ben Jones in Manchester, England. It was submitted to a Call for Entries in 50 Watts' Polish Book Cover Contest several years ago. Contestants were asked to design the "Polish Edition" of their favorite book. Jones nailed it with his entry. 

Book designer Jon Gray does a nearly all-type solution for this Penguin reissue. 


The first US paperback; a 1955 Signet pulp release.

The very first UK edition of Orwell's 1984, released on June 8th, 1949. Below is the first published US edition found at Good is Dead. Neither design credits are listed. 
Swedish designer Olle Eksell (1919-2007) designed this cover in 1959.

BBC released this short documentary, The Beauty of Books: Part 4, several years ago, and it takes a close look at the range of Orwell's 1984 and the Clockwork Orange book covers. Definitely worth a watch. it just me, or does it sound like Big Brother is the narrator here?


  1. Great post, Jennifer - I love the Signet cover: imagine the reader's confusion when they open up the book to find a gritty indictment of authoritarianism, rather than a story of 'forbidden love'!

    1. Thanks James. It was interesting to see the variation in these covers over the decades. Of all, the Signet cover definitely stands out in contrast. I would loved to have sat in on that marketing meeting!

  2. Hi from downunder . . .
    Signet cover gets my vote but I'd never seen it, the version I read isn't shown (and I can't find it). I was wondering, re: Jennifer's remark - did they have a marketing meeting to discuss the Signet cover? The Brits certainly did with the Penguin reissue as it shows.
    mal E - ephemeral-male

    1. I'm guessing the art director at Signet must have had a meeting with the artist, however Signet were always known for their steamy pulp cover art. There is a great selection of them here:


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