After posting a query
on Memefirst this morning about the different editions of the Harry Potter books,
I decided to create a little matrix of them all, to see how they compared. Here
it is; for the sake of saving bandwidth, I’ve used thumbnails for the first
four books, and slightly bigger pictures for the most recent one.
|UK edition||UK adult edition||US edition|
It’s clear to me that by far the best covers for these books are the last three
episodes of the UK children’s series. The first two are too childish: although
I do appreciate that they’re meant to appeal to younger readers, they don’t
feel like the timeless classics that they surely are. From the Prisoner of Azkaban
onwards, however, we’ve got beautiful covers: magical and appealing, just like
The UK adult edition was, I think, basically a response to the weakness of
the first two children’s editions in the UK. You could definitely feel like
a bit of a willy reading those books in public, so Bloomsbury intelligently
brought the same books out with smart and sober covers for those of us over
the age of about 13. The first was better than the second, but by the time the
third book came out, the adult covers weren’t really needed any more, since
the children’s covers had grown up. Still, the series kept on going (once you’ve
started, it’s hard to stop) with a couple of rather peculiar dragons, which
weren’t up to the standard of the children’s books at all.
The latest version seems to have given up entirely: they’ve dropped the standard
design template for something which looks like a mass-market thriller: Robert
Ludlum, perhaps, or Frederick Forsyth. And again, the artist is much worse at
drawing phoenixes than the person who did the mainstream edition.
But the US editions, I think, are the worst of the lot. While the cover art
on books one and two in the UK was not very good, at least the rest of the design
was good. But the US publisher created a spiky Harry Potter logotype which they
decided had to be used on all of the books, and it got less and less appropriate
as the series progressed.
And while the UK editions only got better over time, the US editions got steadily
worse. The Goblet of Fire cover, especially, with its inanely-grinning Harry,
fails completely to convey the more grown-up nature of this book. With the Order
of the Phoenix, Scholastic seems to have realised that the series is actually
developing, and tried to reflect that by making the cover monochromatic!
Harry’s not smiling any more, but he seems to have fallen into a cheesy low-budget
haunted-house movie by mistake. And, of course, he’s still got his spiky logo,
looking more and more out of place.
I’d be very interested to know if there’s anyone who prefers the US covers
to the UK ones. I can see why Scholastic might want to use its own designers,
but does anybody think they actually did a better job? Vote now!