Saturday, 1 May 2010

Cover nomenclature

I often talk in my posts about "original" green covers, and "italic" green covers, and thought that it was time to draw up a little schema of the different types of green covers, and give them a standard name to make my blog a little more scientific!

1. The original green cover. This is characterised by the characteristic green top 1/3 of the cover, with title and author in a distinctive white font, separated by white lines under a lime green "Virago Modern Classics" heading. No green apple on the front, just on the spine. This is the holy grail of Virago Modern Classics of which every VMC collector seeks out! Whilst it would be lovely to own a complete set of original green covers, not all of the VMCs by any means were published in this style.

There is a slight variant on this cover, with a different style of font:
2. The italic green cover. The cover is characterised by a green background to the top 1/3 of the cover upon which the title, author, and Virago modern classics is written in white, italic writing.
3. The modern green cover. This is characterised by a small green stripe down the left hand side of the cover with a red apple in the top left hand corner.

4. Classics covers. I noticed that the Jane Austen and Bronte Virago Modern Classics (and possibly others too that I have not yet come across) have this distinctive design. This is characterised by a green border all the way around, with white decoration and type.

5. Dial Press Covers. Although not part of the green covers, readers should be aware that many Virago books were published in America by the Dial Press, and often have the same picture as the original green edition, but with a black background.
6. Penguin editions. It's worth mentioning that Penguin published a number of the Virago modern classics in Australia and the US - they are original green editions, but have a Penguin emblem on the spine and cover in place of the apple. This was discussed earlier on my blog here and has also been discussed on

7. And then obviously there are the huge array of modern editions. I like the way that these are so completely different, although Virago use similar styles for each author. The Daphne Du Maurier covers and Antonia White ones are especial favourites, and the new Barbara Pym and Muriel Sparks are extremely jolly and colourful.

8. Finally there are the 30th Anniversary Hardbacks, issued in 2008 to celebrate 30 years of Virago, such as Valley of the dolls by Susann. I covet the complete set of these, and own four.

Have I missed anything?


  1. I really like the Dial Press cover, but then I love the image for Frost In May. The best thing about Virago covers is the paintings that they choose for each book.

    The original editions are beautiful face-out on a shelf and look lovely and satisfying when they're a run of green be-appled spines!

  2. I'm currently trying to decide if I should keep my Virago's arranged alphabeticaly or by cover design. Once upon a time I went out on a saturday night. Hmmm

  3. I like the modern Virago covers which as you say, could be any pastel colour with a little red apple on the spine. I've got two of the 30th anniversary hardbacks, E M Delafield and the Helene Hanff. They are truly beautiful colours.

  4. This is the most helpful Virago post! I've often wondered about the difference cover variations. I'll probably keep mine arranged by cover, and then alphabetical in each group.

  5. Tealady - you're right about the original editions looing lovely as a run of spines - very easy to spot in a second hand shop too!

    Hayley - I would love to keep all my Viragos together but I keep all of my fiction alphabetically or I'd never find anything! Lol. I don't really have Saturday nights either.

    Vintage - I think the hardbacks are very beautiful - I will have to get the rest soon.

    Amanda - I can see the appeal of arrangement by cover!