Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Historical novel spine art!


Regular readers of this blog know I love examining historical fiction cover art: admiring it, criticizing it, judging its appropriateness for the book and the genre, even tracking when it's reused.

That said, I haven't written before about the creative and gorgeous spine art I've been seeing on some historical novels, so I thought I'd dedicate a post to it.  Because many works of historical fiction are lengthy reads, publishers and designers have been taking advantage of the added real estate to create art that will make their titles stand out on a crowded shelf.  Let's face it, there are a lot of books vying for readers' attention, so they'll do what they can to grab us.  And it works!

Here are some examples of what I'm talking about from my own collection; I gathered together some good ones and put them all on the same shelf.

You can enlarge the photo at the top of the page to get a close-up view.

Sometimes the designers replicate the images on the front cover in miniature, giving readers a good sense of the full design and using it to set a mood even when the book is shelved spine-out:


From Polygon (UK)

From Howard Books / Simon & Schuster (USA)

And at other times, they create a similar design that elegantly complements the rest of the jacket.

From Douglas & McIntyre (Canada)

From Allison & Busby (UK). 
No jacket; the art is printed directly on the book. Very cool.

Would any of these designs entice you to pull the books off the shelf and read what they're about?

14 comments:

  1. They all look tempting - that's a fun project! Your photo reminded me how much I want to read Hild.

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    1. Me too! I preordered it ages ago and still it sits there, through no fault of its own. It's a book I know will require a quieter environment and sufficient time to devote to it.

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  2. Looking at your photo, and not counting the Fannie Flagg book because I have read it and love the cover, I would be attracted to The Valley of Atonement,The Girl Under the Olive Tree and One Last Dance based only on their spines.

    Cover are very important to me when I choose a book. For years I wanted to read Virginia Woolf's Orlando, but the cover was awful. I waited and waited for it to be changed or to find another edition. Finally found another edition on a trip abroad, read Orlando, loved it, and can live with the cover (it was better, not great). I always think about this when I read a post of yours on cover art, which I love reading.

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    1. That's great you finally found a copy of Orlando with a decent cover. I've felt similarly about Valerie Fitzgerald's Zemindar; The older cover is okay, and the print on my paperback is so tiny I'll have trouble reading it. There's a new edition coming out in October that I'm very excited about, though, and the cover is gorgeous.

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  3. I agree. They all make you want to read the books.

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    1. I bought a couple of them in the larger picture after picking them out from a crowded shelf and deciding I wanted to read them.

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  4. I never really thought about this before. I read the title, then the author and then look at the front cover art. Thanks for the post, now I will think of it when I am looking for a book.

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    1. I've found that while it doesn't discourage me when I see a novel without spine art, having it there can do the trick of making me consider reading the book - just like an attractive cover design will.

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  5. I love fab spine art. If my books weren't already crated up for our move, I'd paw through them for some favs!

    The whole cover for In the Fabled East is marvelous.

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    1. Isn't it though? That's one I bought after seeing it shelved spine-out at a bookstore! The paperback design is also attractive but not nearly as unique.

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  6. I am reading Hild right now, and it is wonderful! And yes, I would pick up all of these for the spine art.

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    1. I haven't read any of them in the photo yet! I really ought to get cracking...

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  7. They're beautiful, Sarah! There's seems to be a lot of blue - is that just coincidence, or do you notice blue in your entire library of historicals?
    (What did you think of Hild? Have you read that one yet?)

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    1. I hadn't noticed how many of them were blue! The sky is the backdrop to many of them that have spine art, so that could explain why. Looking at the rest of my books, they're all the colors of the rainbow. :)

      I haven't read Hild yet, despite having preordered it - I really should...

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