Covers

A book’s cover is a powerful site of translation, even though a translator of the text of Jane Eyre has usually had nothing to do with its creation. The cover appeals to readers, announces the kind of book this is, and suggests why anyone – or everyone – might want to read it.

The tiles below open onto a selection of covers of translations for you to explore. Please note that this is a very partial array: book-jackets, and paperbacks, can be hard to track down, and not all the ones we could find had images worth reproducing. That is also why the selection is weighted towards the more recent end of Jane Eyre’s life in translation.

We have organised the covers by language because, often, competition within a single-language book market is a significant factor in determining what a cover looks like (the exception is our ‘Multilingual Tour’, the last tile, which gathers covers from languages where we have only one or two examples). In these maps, unlike the Basic, World and Time maps, we have included reprints by the same publisher when they have interesting new covers – this is another instance of the complexity of the question of what counts as a new act of translation (see discussion on the World map page.)

The books are pegged to the street addresses of their publishers: the names of editors and designers are often lost, but this way you can at least see where they worked, and think about the relation between a cover image and its local context. Here, just as with the World map, there are historical complexities that the maps themselves cannot show. The streets in our maps are modern; in the past they may have been configured differently and had different names. Kasia Szymanska describes the difficulty of locating the 1921 translation published in Chrzanów, Poland: ‘before 1918, Chrzanów was part of Austria (the Austrian partition) and the publishing house was still registered under a German street name from before WW1 (E. Bartels, B-Weissensee, Generalstrasse 8/10). I couldn’t at first find the post-1918 equivalent for the map, butI finally found some archival pictures and established it must be the equivalent of the modern Główna 8/10.’

Within each language the covers are arranged chronologically because, often, new covers are designed to stand out from earlier ones. All the same, as you will see, there are striking continuities across both time and languages.

In this mosaic, click on the language-name within each graphic block to see the map.

Several recent covers show the international reach of TV and film: the movies directed by Franco Zeffirelli and Cary Fukunaga in 1996 and 2011, and the 2006 TV mini-series directed by Susanna White which appears on covers in Turkey (2007), Iran (2012) and Egypt (2016). In these books, the text has a contradictory relationship to the glamorous video image: piggy-backing on its appeal, and yet also contrasting with it, since reading offers a quieter and more particular imaginative experience.

Continuities in book design go back well before this. Very often, the cover of a Jane Eyre translation features a lone young woman. Here, designers encounter a tension between their desire to make the book attractive and Jane’s insistence that she is ‘plain’. Sometimes they have recourse to a classic painting (the same oil study by Frederick, Lord Leighton appears more than once). Sometimes, Jane is frankly sexualised (as in 1984 and 2001 publications in Beirut, and a 1962 edition in Istanbul). But she can also figure as a reader (Finland, 1987; Iran, 1991) or writer (Buenos Aires, 1944).

Often, there is a suggestion of narrative development in the cover: a lone woman in the foreground of the image, with Thornfield Hall and/or other characters further back, in the implied future of a distant perspective.

Sometimes, particular scenes are picked out: Jane’s first encounter with Rochester when he falls off his horse (French, 1950; Greek, 1963; Arabic, 1985), or the young Jane being punished at Lowood school (as in a very striking cover published in 1945 in Madrid). There are representations of Bertha, and of fire.

There is a recent trend for silhouettes: Spanish, 2014; Danish, 2015; Dutch, 2016; Brazilian Portuguese, 2018. And there is also, simply, a great inventive variety of images which open up aspects of the novel in surprising ways. A chilly representation of rivalry between women (Japanese, 1955), or a haunting view of a pensive male figure seen through glass (Persian, 1983).

It is possible to trace changes over time. For instance, Andrés Claro discerns the following developments in the Spanish-language covers:

‘Many of the covers reappear, but in terms of new emphases some tendencies can be clearly established. Thus, one can see how the covers of the early editions, from the 1940s to the 1950s, tend to stress gothic mystery, values relating to Victorian vs contemporary women, self-assertion against adversity, and some romance. Those from the 1960s to the 1970s add pre-Raphaelite aesthetics and a clear stress on adventure and romance in contemporary terms, where the iconography for Jane shifts from virtue to eros. Those from the 1980s-1990s add at least three new iconographies depending on the public addressed: (1) classical portrait and (2) film images when they are addressed to adults (making clear that we are dealing with a classic of world literature, serious writing, or a classic of entertainment); and (3) the teacher, when they are addressed to children (mainly in abridges versions). Covers from the 2000s-2010s show a new relative stress on solitude and suffering (Jane portrayed alone, meditative, etc.).’

Book designers and illustrators are even more likely than translators to remain anonymous: where we have information about who created these covers we have supplied it; more often, we have none. As ever, if you are able to help us fill in gaps, please let us know via the ‘contribute’ button in the sidebar.

Text by Matthew Reynolds; maps and graphics constructed by Giovanni Pietro Vitali