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I recently fed my home library by purchasing some second-hand books, I went in to the shop to collect a facsimile edition of Agatha Christie’s ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ and came out not only with this but also a German edition of Emile Zola’s Nana. Not that I can read German but I have read this book about 20 years ago (in English of course) and I bought this copy for the cover – because it is a 1952 edition with original jacket. Who said “you should never judge a book by its cover“?

I was inspired by a recent article (5 March) in Emerald Street, an online/email magazine who featured a link to another person’s blog post showing different designs of covers for Nabokov’s Lolita. You can find this post at: http://www.dezimmer.net  This post by Dieter E Zimmer features 185 book and media covers of Lolita. Some interesting covers here – I read this book in around 1980 and I recall the cover clearly as the one with the lollipop – the Penguin 1980 edition looks familiar, see below. Funny how book covers can stick in your mind.

1980 GB Penguin, London
1980 GB Penguin, London

It is difficult to choose, but my selection of interesting covers from this collection (either because the design doesn’t quite get it, or because they actually do, and thus uncomfortably capture the essence) are these:

1958 NL Oisterwijk, The Hague
1958 NL Oisterwijk, The Hague
1959 BRD Rowohlt, Hamburg
1959 BRD Rowohlt, Hamburg
1959b ARG Sur, Buenos Aires
1959b ARG Sur, Buenos Aires
1966 IT Mondadori (Gli Oscar), Milano
1966 IT Mondadori (Gli Oscar), Milano
1964 TUR Altin Kitaplar Yayinevi, Istanbul
1964 TUR Altin Kitaplar Yayinevi, Istanbul
1987 BRD 'Der Zauberer' Rowohlt, Reinbek
1987 BRD ‘Der Zauberer’ Rowohlt, Reinbek
1997 US VHS Random House Audio, New York
1997 US VHS Random House Audio, New York
2005 FR Gallimard (folio), Paris
2005 FR Gallimard (folio), Paris
2010 US Kindle-Odyssey, New York
2010 US Kindle-Odyssey, New York
2010 GB Penguin (Modern Classics), London
2010 GB Penguin (Modern Classics), London

The challenge is to communicate this complex (and frankly, a bit disturbing, book) in a single cover. To convey the mix of adolescent naïveté, of innocence and knowing, that this novel brings to the reader. Those who were disturbed by reading Crash by JG Ballard (mentioned in my previous post) may well find this one equally challenging. For a considered response to the contents of Lolita see this review from 1958 in the New York Times. Interestingly a lot of the 1960’s covers have a similar feel to the Emile Zola novel.

See the actual post here to see all the covers curated by Dieter Zimmer.

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