Dracula cover art

Posted by on December 09, 2007 in Blog tagged with

A few months ago, Penguin promoted their ‘My Penguin’ concept (selling a number of books with blank covers, for readers to decorate as they liked) by asking some figures in the music business to design their own covers. You can see Ryan Adams’s cover of Dracula here. He went with Castle Dracula as the iconic image of the novel, which I thought was an interesting choice. I’ve got a theory that the cover art on editions of Dracula reflects our changing interest in the novel’s focus, in perhaps a more explicit sense than we see with other novels, and in that context, Transylvanian castles seem to have fallen out of fashion.

Take a look at this cover from a 1902 edition, for example:

Or this one, from 1916:

Both emphasise the alien-ness of the Count and his environment, and focus on the immediate, visual sense of horror conveyed. (As an aside, I love the way that the artist of the second cover has solved the timeless problem of how to crawl face-first down a castle wall while wearing a cloak!)

Modern covers seem to fall into two camps, with editions that present themselves as serious, academic and literary doing quite a different thing to editions that revel in the exaggerated, semi-comical value of a canonical vampire novel. Stills from films appear a lot in the latter – capes, fangs, and Christopher Lee looking suitably bloodthirsty – and even when they’re not drawing on film adaptations, most of them do seem to focus on the Count himself:

Dracula doesn’t disappear entirely from the more literary editions of the book that bears his name, but he is presented, I think, as more human and less monstrous (at least, in outward appearance). Here’s the cover of one of the Penguin Classics editions, for example:

 

(The cover shows Henry Irving as Mephistopheles.) Or how about this one, the cover of the 1998 Broadview edition – on which, I’m hoping, the editor might tell us more about in comments?

And finally, how about this, the most recent of the Penguin Classics covers?

The trend here seems to be away from Transylvania and vampires as horrifically alien, and towards Victorian England and vampires as terrifyingly human. But there are a lot of covers out there, and I might be proven wrong with a wider sample! What’s on the cover of your copy?

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