I think that Jane Austen just might approve of this new cover design that fashion illustrator Rueben Toledo has created for her novel Pride and Prejudice. Her fondness for finery is confirmed in her letters to her sister Cassandra as she chats about her shopping expeditions to linen-drapers, silk-mercer’s and milliners in London and Bath, and about her progress in creating her own clothing.
“I have determined to trim my lilac sarsenet with black ribbon just as my China Crape is …Ribbon trimmings are all the fashion at Bath, & I dare say the fashions of the two places are alike enough in that point, to content me. – With this addition it will be a very useful gown, happy to go anywhere.” 5 March 1814
We have seen many traditional cover art designs for Pride and Prejudice over the years, but I must say that I think that Toledo’s new cover qualifies as the snazziest. The two most pressing questions are: 1.) Do you judge a book by its cover? and, 2.) Do you need yet another copy of P&P in your library? Penguin Books is hoping you do, and I wholly confess to answering yes to both questions. One can never have too many editions of P&P and this transformation of Lizzy, Darcy &C into “Couture Classics” is irresistible.
Toledo’s eye is quite striking. Even though the silhouettes might look like stick insect runway models strutting to the black and white ball at Netherfield, I recognize them as our favorite literary duo appropriately walking away from each other after (Darcy stepping on her dress!). I just imagine that Darcy has just given Lizzy the “be not alarmed Madame letter” and it all works for me. Get hip Janeites. We can now all be Austen fashionistas and exhibit our superior designer taste on our bedside tables. Now, (pray forgive) if our husbands, boyfriends, significant others or friends were ever in doubt of our obsession, this will certainly seal the deal. In defense, you can remind them that this new edition with the haute couture cover contains Penguin Classics definitive text and an excellent introduction by Tony Tanner that Paris Hilton won’t read, but she might deem useful as a door stop.
Also included in the series is Toledo’s stunningly fierce cover of the wide eyed Catherine Earnshaw (though we know she is not as innocent as she looks) wandering the Yorkshire moors in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and very hip looking Hester Prynne from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter in a little black dress no less. What fashionable 17th-century Puritan Boston woman would be without one, right?
Each of these lovely deluxe editions include Penguin Classics definitive texts, introductions by leading scholars, and helpful notes to alleviate any guilt you might be harboring for buying anything purely based on in its bling factor. Enjoy!