The Many Faces (and Book Covers) of The Great Gatsby
For many readers, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece The Great Gatsby is the great American novel. Thought of as a commercial failure upon first publication, the book now sells more copies in one year than it did in the author’s lifetime, and its critical reputation only continues to grow. And though it may possess the most singularly iconic book cover of any novel (see below), Gatsby and Daisy have appeared elsewhere in a variety of guises on book covers throughout the world.
Top: What must be the most iconic book jacket of all time, illustration by Francis Cugat, who was commissioned while Fitzgerald was still in the midst of writing the novel. American readers will struggle to remember any cover other than this one (except maybe the recent movie tie-in edition) as it has been reused and repurposed for nearly every paperback printing by its publisher Scribner’s. Of course, the face here is not Gatsby’s but that of his beloved obsession, Daisy Buchanan.
Second Row: Portrait of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Scribner’s current iteration of the cover (right), complete with Jazz Age Art Deco lettering.
Third Row: Daisy Buchanan has inspired many, if not most, of the novel’s covers—here are three further examples, again done in Art Deco-style, including the current German edition (left), Oxford Worlds Classics (middle), and Wordsworth Classics (right) paperbacks.
Fourth Row: Three covers pairing a flapper styled woman and a dapper dressed gentleman, obviously meant to evoke Daisy and Gatsby, which includes French publisher Le Livre de pouche’s edition (left), and two from Penguin UK’s Modern Classics imprint, the “silver band” (middle) and the current edition in print (right).
Fifth Row: Here we have three covers featuring Gatsby solo, more or less, an earlier Penguin edition (left) where the gentleman in profile bears a striking resemblance to F. Scott Fitzgerald; a current French edition (middle), which does away with the adjective “Great”; and a tie-in edition for the 1949 noir-tinged film version (right), starring Alan Ladd and Betty Field.
Sixth Row: Gatsby’s car, which plays a pivotal role in the novel’s denouement, figures prominently on this trio of covers, including the current Italian edition (left), the current Spanish edition (center), and the UK’s Everyman paperback (right).
Bottom Row: “[T]hose gleaming, dazzingly parties of his were with me so vividly that I could still hear the music and the laughter, faint and incessant, from his garden…” Those legendarily glamourous affairs at Gatsby’s West Egg Mansion inspire these last few covers.