title bar Picturing a Canadian Life: L.M. Montgomery's Personal Scrapbooks and Book Covers
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Introduction to the Importance of Book Covers

The book covers in this exhibition are from the splendid Ronald I. Cohen Lucy Maud Montgomery Collection of the National Library. Thanks to the generosity of Ronald I. Cohen, we may look at a whole series of first, rare, and colorful editions of L.M. Montgomery's works and some related materials. The covers of these editions may vary considerably from decade to decade or from country to country. Montgomery's world-wide and perennial popularity makes examining the book covers an adventure in understanding something about literature, popular culture, the female hero, and marketing.

The cover art prompts many questions: how did Montgomery inspire others to picture the images she described? How closely or inappropriately do artists read the texts they illustrate or try to capture their spirits? How does a culture at a given time picture its girls and women? How do publishers conceive of the market for whom they design the books? How do the publishers' estimations of markets seem to change over time?

Anne of Green Gables covers and frontispiece
Consider a few of the numerous changes in the cover art and illustrations for Anne of Green Gables alone. When it was first published in Boston in 1908, the sophisticated, fashionable woman on the cover, painted by M.A. Claus and W.A.J. Claus, suggests that the story was aimed at a general audience, possibly adults. (See Changing Perception of Montgomery's Writing) The covers, whether of greyish boards or turquoise green, were sturdy and handsome, with a distinctive frame and gold lettering. In the 1920 Page edition of the novel, the text and cover remained the same, but inside, readers found black-and-white stills from the 1919 silent film. The frontispiece showed a sweet but sophisticated Mary Miles Minter photographed as Anne. For the Silver Anniversary edition of the novel, in 1933, Page chose a new look entirely, making Marilla, Anne, and Mrs. Lynde look as though they belonged to an English village. See collector Ronald I. Cohen's discussion of this book jacket. The 1934 film, with a freshly re-named actress Anne Shirley playing the part of Montgomery's Anne Shirley, was featured on a 1937 book cover. This wholesome girl in pigtails is a long way from the Claus painting and the English village image of the 1933 edition. A more startling change shows in a 1935 jacket image, where Anne has blue eyes instead of the grey-green ones of the story, wears a Twentieth-Century head band, and is posed in front of a seaside village that looks more Japanese than North American.
Frontispieces and Bookcovers from Anne books
The Nineteenth-Century clothing in the Claus frontispiece of 1908 gave way to fashionable flapper attire in Elizabeth Withington's illustrations for the 1934 Page volume. Anne evidently kept up with the times--the readers' times or the readers' supposed imaginings of Anne's time. The Philip Simmonds illustrations for several of the Harrap volumes of Anne novels are worth considering together since Simmonds used the same flapper model for each of his covers. Perhaps Anne was meant to seem to change as she grew older in the novels.

Introduction | Adventures in Collecting | L.M. Montgomery's Works | Changing Perception of Montgomery's Writing | A Writer's Visual Imagination | Inspiring Others
go to LM Montgomery Institute at UPEI Website go to University of Guelph Website go to Lucy Maud Montgomery Birthplace Website go to Virtual Museum of Canada Website go to Confederation Centre of the Arts Website go to National Library of Canada Website go to English Home Page go to French Homepage go to Virtual Museum of Canada Website 1908 Anne of Green Gables cover Anne of Green Gables frontispiece printed 1920 Anne of Green Gables Silver Anniversary dust jacket printed 1933 Anne of Green Gables cover printed 1937 Anne of Green Gables cover printed 1935 Anne of Green Gables frontispiece printed 1909 Anne of Green Gables frontispiece printed 1934 Anne of Green Gables cover printed 1934 Anne of Avonlea cover printed 1938 Anne of the Island cover printed 1934 Anne's House of Dreams cover printed 1964