We all know the timeless adage “don’t judge a book by its cover.” As a book lover, though, I practice that in just about every area of my life except books. The following three picks From My Bookshelf are proof of that: Mansfield Park, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (screenplay), and Charlotte’s Web and Other Illustrated Classics. The charm of their covers isn’t the only reason I purchased them, but it certainly makes me treasure them more.
Mansfield Park Jane Austen
This particular edition of Mansfield Park is part of The Winchester Austen series. Winchester is a city and county town in Hampshire, England, and home to the Winchester Cathedral, the longest and and one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in Europe. This Cathedral is also the resting place of Jane Austen, hence the name of the series. The image on the cover of this book, which is also on the end pages, is the “after” drawing for Humphry Repton’s proposal to transform Harlestone Park in Northamptonshire, which appeared in Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening. With four introductions, an illustrated breakdown of the principal characters, a charming Jane Austen timeline, a map of Jane Austen’s England, and a quick analysis of the Church of England, the charm of this edition doesn’t end with the cover. If you find this or other Winchester Austens in a bookstore, definitely bring it home – or at least flip through it.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay J.K. Rowling
If you’ve read my previous From My Bookshelf posts, you know that I’ve already written about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This time around, though, I’m highlighting the original screenplay version. In gold and blue, this cover is shiny, mesmerizing, and just magical. Incorporating some fantastic beasts into the design, the official graphic artist duo MinaLima truly made a lovely cover. The end pages are green with similarly gold dots that dazzle when you open the book, and if you take off the jacket an adorable Niffler greets you from the center of the cover.
Charlotte’s Web and Other Illustrated Classics
For me, part of the allure of many old, rare, and special editions of books is that they most resemble what I wish all books would look like. Thick, hardcover, gold edged paper, ribbon bookmark, and so beautifully crafted that you don’t want to touch them, yet they beckon you to flip them open. I found this edition of Charlotte’s Web and Other Illustrated Classics at Barnes & Noble – in fact, it was published for Barnes & Noble in 2013 – and knew I had to add it to my bookshelf. Charlotte’s Web is a story I’ve read countless times, and to have it bound with two other E.B. White stories (Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan) is a treasure even without a spectacularly designed cover. On the inside, delicate illustrations supplement the text; each one looks like it has just been drawn with a pencil. This book belongs on a pedestal in the middle of a grand library, but until I acquire one the top of my short bookcase will have to do.