You may not think that colourful, descriptive images that grace most books these days have much to do with the classic designs featured on our Paperblanks® journals. But, to separate the classic and antique binding styles we reproduce from the modern, more graphic versions would be to ignore centuries upon centuries of artistic innovation. From the earliest Indian religious sutras bindings to the rise of the printing press in 1500 to the introduction of modern, commercial technology, the binding and cover of a book is often as thoughtfully crafted as the written work within.

Because we could go on for days and days about all the beautiful books people have created throughout history, we are going to limit ourselves to ten of the most iconic and influential covers from this past century.

The Top Ten

(In no particular order)

1) George Orwell, 1984


Cover Art: Shepard Fairey

Image Source: Obey Giant

2) Joseph Heller, Catch-22


Cover Art: Paul Bacon

Image Source: The Guardian

3) Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Bell Jar

Cover Art: Bantam Books 1972 edition

Image Source: Flavorwire

4) Mario Puzo, The Godfather

puzo godfather

Cover Art: Original book jacket, 1969

Image Source: The World’s Greatest Books

5) J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye


Cover Art: Michael Mitchell

Image Source: “Rye catcher” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

6) F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby


Cover Art: Francis Cugat

Image Source: Fine Books Magazine

7) Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho


Cover Art: Marshall Arisman

Image Source: “AmericanPsychoBook” by Source. Licensed under fair use via Wikipedia.

8) Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange


Cover Art: David Pelham

Image Source: Book Cover Archive

9) Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince


Cover Artist: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Image Source: Scientific American

10) Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

rand Atlas Shrugged Cover

Cover Art: Nick Gaetano

Image Source: Zen Throwdown 

Bonus: The Worst Book Covers

We found this Tumblr account dedicated to terrible cover art – Lousy Book Covers – and definitely recommend you check it for a good laugh at what can happen when people try to design their own book jackets.

What’s In a Cover?

In an October, 2014 Writing Wednesday post we were inspired by a viral photo to ask just that question. The photo showed books that had been wrapped in brown paper by the staff at a bookstore, in an apparent effort to dissuade buyers from “judging a book by its cover.” It’s pretty clear where our beliefs fall when it comes to the merits of beautiful book bindings and cover designs, but for more reasons why book covers are great (and to get a hint of the other side’s perspective) check out that post here.

Download Paperblanks® Journal Prompts

About Paperblanks®: At Paperblanks®, we believe that art should have a place in all aspects of life. That’s why we follow the artist’s way in everything we do – creating, crafting and releasing designs we believe have the power to touch people. For more about Paperblanks®, go to our website at


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