I don't think there's a series of books in my collection that makes me happier than the ongoing Penguin "Deluxe Classics" line. This series began about four years ago with a new edition of Candide featuring artwork by the great Chris Ware. Ware's work ran along the front, back, and spine of the book as well as the inside flaps...it's one of the nicest looking books you'll ever find in the "classics" section of your local bookshop. Ware's Candide was followed by a number of other reprints, including Daniel Clowes's take on Frankenstein, Charles Burns's cover for Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, and Anders Nilsen's artwork for a collection of fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson.
The best part of this series, however, is this: while you may be lured in by the amazing cover artwork by some of today's most important comic and graphic artists, you also make a very important step towards reading some of these classics that you may have missed in your life. Let's face it--I would NEVER have picked up a copy of Candide if it weren't for Chris Ware's artwork. Now, I'm really happy that I've read Candide (it's pretty good!) and own a nice copy of it.
I was in the basement of the Strand this morning, thumbing through the reviewer's paperbacks when I found this, a new edition of Pride and Prejudice, illustrated by someone named Ruben Toledo. I searched for his name on Amazon and found he's done the covers for two more books in the Deluxe Classics series: Wuthering Heights and The Scarlet Letter.
These three books will be released at the end of this month. It's the first time the Deluxe Classics series has featured an artist more than once, and I think it's pretty successful. Toledo's work is just different enough with each of these titles to maintain the artistic variety the series has so strongly featured. Wuthering Heights is the weak link for me, though, as it reminds me a bit too much of Dame Darcy's Jane Eyre (though we could do some interesting Bronte sister theorizing):
Three more books will hit shelves towards the end of October: Moby Dick with cover art by Tony Millionaire, Huckleberry Finn with art by Lille Carre, and Ethan Frome with art by Jeffrey Brown. This batch is most exciting for me, as Jeffrey Brown's books (Clumsy, Unlikely) were some of the first comics I ever got into.