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Youngman Carter painted beautiful bespoke art for the covers of Margery Allingham's mystery novels, and his style became associated with her work. Why don't the modern reprints of the Campion novels use her husband's art?

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It may not be accurate to say that his style became associated with her work, per se. It seems more that it was associated with a range of authors in that period.

Before the war

Youngman Carter became a prolific graphic artist, distinguished particularly in the undervalued field of dustwrapper design for books. His designs enhanced the work of many of the most celebrated writers of the day: H.G.Wells, G.K.Chesterton, Eden Phillpotts, Margaret Kennedy, Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca West, John Steinbeck, J.B.Priestley, Georgette Heyer and Graham Greene.

and after the war

He continued to design dustwrappers, including a long series for Simenon, and in the early sixties produced paperback covers for several of Dorothy L. Sayers’ Wimsey novels.

The source of both quotes is the Margery Allingham Society website.

More generally publishers make a habit of refreshing artwork for books which remain in publication for extended time. If you consider books which have remained popular over several generations, it would be unrealistic to expect the books to remain wedded to unaltering cover art when the style of all the new books around them, for which them must compete for sales, are up to the minute and modish.

For books which have remained popular for so long, the original cover art might now be considered elegant and appropriately 'period', but ten, twenty, thirty, forty years ago it may just have looked dated, dowdy and tired.

An article on the BBC entitled 'What makes and Iconic Book Cover' speaks to several people in the industry on the topic:

Jon Gray, who over a 20-year career has designed covers for authors including Zadie Smith, Sally Rooney, Salmon Rushdie and David Foster Wallace, says there’s more pressure than ever to get covers right. “Bookshops are such a riot,” he says. “It’s like a big crowded party and you’re trying to get your face to stand out in the crowd. To make an impact and get someone to pick up a book and turn it over is getting harder and harder.”

It’s not just in shops that books need to stand out, but online too – whether that’s on social media or the sites people buy from – and that’s had an impact on how they look, says Gray. “Online marketing and media has led to a trend for brighter, super-saturated covers in print. The use of fluorescent and special colours and saturated imagery with white-out text. Print is being asked to match the brightness of screen.”

[Donna] Payne, [creative director at Faber & Faber] claims that designing a new cover for a classic novel is also a chance to bring out an aspect of the book that hasn’t been explored before. “You have so many books published every day, it’s important to get those classic titles back on the table in front of store, and a new jacket will help to do that,” she says.

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There could be numerous reasons:

  • If published under a different imprint, the new publisher may not have the rights to the original artwork.

  • Response to artwork is subjective, so a new editor may have may see value in a different cover, based on the current market. (People like new, shiny stuff!)

  • It may simply be a way to distinguish the printing from earlier printings.


It would be helpful if you could post or link to pictures of the same novel with different covers. My own personal pet peeve is when a movie based on a book comes out, and instead of the wonderful, original cover, the work is branded for years with a horrible, movie-poster cover.

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    Thanks for the answer, but right now it's pure generic speculation without any specific information or support about the subject of the question. – BESW Feb 24 '17 at 22:33
  • It is, which is partly why I requested images of competing covers (to be able to check the publishers.) However, dismissing the answer as invalid because it is generic demonstrates only a lack of understanding of the publishing industry. The practice of using new covers for reprints is standard, thus "generic". – DukeZhou Feb 25 '17 at 0:37
  • Generic can be done well. Unsupported speculation that's also generic--not so much. If your answer is "This is standard industry practice" then please expand on that with support and explanation. (And if you want details added to the question, that's what comments are for. If a question isn't yet detailed enough for a good answer, don't answer it.) – BESW Feb 25 '17 at 0:58
  • @BESW This actually falls under the bailiwick of common knowledge, to wit: any person can walk into any used bookstore or library or go on Amazon and determine quite quickly that the overwhelming majority of books in the modern era have different covers for different editions. The question itself, which is not entirely un-useful, would be more generally useful if it were about why the overwhelming majority of books have different covers for different editions. The answer would still be the same. – DukeZhou Feb 25 '17 at 3:06

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