The Beauty of Books – 1984

Some time ago, I watched a documentary on ABC called The Beauty of Books.

You’re probably thinking, what does “The Beauty of Books” have to do with design? A lot, actually.

It was the example the documentary used of George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four, and it’s numerous cover designs it has had since it was first published in 1949. The book has apparently sold over 25 million copies, and has had at least 35 different cover designs in its lifetime (see here).

For such a monumental book, it is a little surprising to me that the cover design has changed so many times…yet it is also a beautiful insight into society, values and art from each year and location where the book was published.

Each designer has taken their own stance on how they perceive the book, and how to visually interpret it. Some covers give nothing away about the content of the book, whereas others try to illustrate an aspect of the story. Some of the covers are reinterpretations of other covers of the same book – sometimes modernised, sometimes just a different take on the original idea.

It’s all very intriguing. Here’s a snippet of some of the cover designs of Nineteen Eighty-Four: