Cover Me: How One Book’s Cover Can Change So Many Times

Some books have been reprinted so many times, in so many languages, over so many years, that it’s hard to keep track of just how many editions still exist. The changes that happen to book covers have as much to do with a publishing house’s decision-making process as they do with generational aesthetic demands and trends. And some book covers are simply so iconic, they could never be thought of in any way other than the original. Could you imagine A Clockwork Orange without the tell-tale eye? The Great Gatsby without the forlorn face in the night sky? A Catcher in the Rye without the carousel horse?

But just as interesting as cataloguing the canonical covers is taking a look at the evolution of book editions where, while the story itself is certainly iconic, the cover never needed protection in the same way. Movie tie-ins, international printings, special editions, publisher changes – save for the occasional outcry when a truly horrid brush is taken to the face of some of our favorite stories, most book covers are tweaked and traded without much fanfare. You might even be surprised by just how many editions of some of our most beloved classics are out there.

Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery (700+ additions listed on Goodreads)

Anne has entered the public domain in Canada, so anybody can have their way with her. And they do. Here’s a sample.


Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien (494 editions on Goodreads)

One of the best-selling books of all time has gone through a few make-overs.


Carrie – Stephen King (196 editions on Goodreads)

When a modern book is as popular as King’s debut, it is reprinted (and from the looks of it, redesigned) constantly.

    Karen Green

    Karen Green is a freelance writer and big city ex-pat now living in rural Ontario. She writes for numerous print and online publications, and considers her library card to be one of her most valuable possessions.

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