Book covers – a history

I recently found the Cover Archive by Alexander S. Budnitz.

I am always fascinated by the covers chosen for books and how why they change with new reprints and editions. The styles over the years also changed with the societal changes. There are some lovely early covers and some of the 1960’s and 70’s covers now appear to be just plain awful/garish to me.

This is a great site that displays the changing styles in book covers from the early 1920’s up to the present day, and it shows not only how they developed but also how many of those from a particular period were so similar in style.

This archive is about graphic design. I’ve attempted to label each cover with a date and, where possible, a designer (or design firm). The designs are the publisher’s property, and are here as an educational tool and as things to be enjoyed.

There were many covers were not familiar to me, even into later ones but that is to be expected because these were covers for the US editions and until recently we had little access to them as our editions were from the “Commonwealth” publishers. It is well worth having a look at the site that is constantly being updated.

Use the drop-down navigation above to browse covers by year, by select designers, and by other more ‘synthetic’ categories. Only the ‘Time Flies’ chronological section is fully updated. There are well over 1,000 covers in the archive. I keep adding to the collection, but can only ever represent a fraction of what’s out there.

Using the drop down list, the covers from 1900-1949:

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