Thursday, February 24, 2011

"I am no bird, and no net ensnares me"

Inspired by the book blog Jacket Knack, which boasts the clever tag line “Maybe you can judge a book by its cover”, I’ve been taking a closer look at those vintage and antique books which line my shelves. Combine this new fascination with my excitement over the upcoming movie rendition of Jane Eyre and you get this little post.

I believe this is one of the many books that I picked up for free at one of my many expeditions to the Crumpton auction when I lived in Maryland. I had seen this book’s cover before, no doubt in used book stores, so I was excited when I found a copy of it to take home with me (for free, nonetheless).

The book’s title and author appear only on the spine, the entire cover is dedicated to the image you see here, with not a word of text to interrupt it. It invites the reader to not just look at it, but to study it. The black and white line drawing perfectly communicates the dreary world of the orphanage. The gaunt faces of the girls combined with their simple clothing add to the misery of their reality.

But I think my favorite part of this image is that all the girls’ eyes appear to be closed, probably because they are downcast, capturing the girls’ acceptance of their situation. . .except one. The second girl on the right from the bottom has her eyes open, and you cannot help but be drawn in.

I do not remember how exacrtly I came to read this book for the first time- I don’t recall being required to read it in school, but somewhere along the line I did manage to make my way through it. I think the cover is one of the most suitable ones I’ve ever seen for Charlotte Bronte’s gothic masterpiece. Some of the other covers I’ve seen are bare boned (just the title and author with nary an illustration, or even a flourish), or abstract, or just have some type of painting on the cover bearing a 19th century woman. I think a book/author that has so much to say deserves a better cover than that; this story deserves a cover that will begin speaking before the first page has been turned.


  1. I love this cover and I'd really like to know the date that this edition of Jane Eyre was published. I agree that this cover expresses the book's content - I also see it as a line of governesses going out into the world.
    Thanks, Eberle

  2. Hey, I found the information on this: this edition of Jane Eyre was published by Random House in 1943, and the illustrations are engravings by Fritz Eichenberg.