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Covering Jane Austen

June 10, 2009 | 10:24 am

Austen_andzombies

Jane Austen's books, which are in the public domain, are reissued as fast as publishers think they can sell them. The covers rely on certain themes -- a portrait of a demure yet wise-eyed regency-era lady was pretty universally acknowledged to imply Jane Austen-ness. So much so that "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" simply added a little rot and blood splatter and -- bingo! -- the Jane Austen satire flew onto the bestseller charts.

Of course, it isn't always just one comely regency lady. Sometimes it takes two.

Austen_twoladies

Property also is a concern for Austen's characters -- who will live where, what will happen to this house or another, where they're heading to go to the ball. So the fallback, if you haven't got a lady for your Austen book jacket, is going to be a building. Make sure it's a grand building, which will be guaranteed by sticking some teeny people in for perspective.

Austen_buildings

A design student has come up with her own version that combines the above (minus the zombie gore). Thinking about what all those ladies were doing in their regency parlors, Leigh-Anne Mullock went with handcrafted elements that portray the books' themes. Look, there are Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy!

Austen_handcrafted

Mullock herself did the needlework that she incorporated into her book cover designs. The Book Design Review blog, which found her work, applauds Mullock for sticking to the advice of design teacher Paul Rand: "It is important to use your hands, this is what distinguishes you from a cow or a computer operator."

I find the needlework designs charming. Maybe some future publisher who reissues an Austen novel -- without zombies -- will too.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos (bottom): Leigh-Anne Mullock

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