Look at your children / See their faces in golden rays / Don't kid yourself they belong to you / They're the start of a coming race ..... Homo sapiens have outgrown their use ..... You gotta make way for the Homo superior. — David Bowie, Oh! You Pretty Things (1971).


Germano Facetti's use of paintings on a Marber-style grid for the Penguin Modern Classics in the mid '60s and early '70s was continued by David Pelham but eventually replaced by a new cover design in the early 1980s. The new design by Pelham's successor as art director at Penguin, Cherriwyn Magill, abandoned any continuity with Facetti's Modern Classics in favour of an orange-and-white spine and white covers on which the artwork was inset and the text centred, with the penguin logo sheltering beneath the overarching series name.

YEVGENY ZAMYATIN We, 1983 We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Reissued in Penguin Modern Classics 1983 with an introduction by Michael Glenny.
The cover art is by Russell Mills.
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The late 1980s saw another redesign and a change of name to Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics. The front cover was now given over entirely to the artwork, which was overlaid with a text box containing the author's name and title. The logo also floated over the artwork, though now in an eau de Nil roundel, with spines and back covers in the same colour.

GEORGE ORWELL Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1989 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Reissued in Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics 1989 with an introduction by Ben Pimlott. The cover shows The Soul of the Soulless City (1920) by C R W Nevinson at the Tate Modern in London.
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YEVGENY ZAMYATIN We, 1993 YEVGENY ZAMYATIN We, 1993 We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Reissued in Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics 1993
(far left) with an introduction by Clarence Brown. The cover shows Caricature of Aleksander Rodchenko
(1933-4) by Georgii Petrusov.

Left: The book as first announced.
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ANTHONY BURGESS A Clockwork Orange, 1996 A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Reissued in Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics 1996 with an introduction by Blake Morrison. The cover photography is by Lionel F Williams and SOA / Photonica.
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Replacing David Pelham's cog-eyed droog on the cover of « A Clockwork Orange » was never going to be easy and the first attempt to do so paid homage to Pelham's classic cover with a cog-eyed photomontage.

KAREL ČAPEK War with the Newts, 1998 War with the Newts by Karel Čapek

First published 1936 as Válka s mloky.

Published in Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics 1998 with an introduction by Ivan Klíma. The cover photography is by Images Colour Library.
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JOHN WYNDHAM The Day of the Triffids, 1999 The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

Reissued in Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics 1999 with an introduction by Barry Langford. The cover photography is by NCI / Science Photo Library.
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The new millennium brought another redesign and another change of name as the 'Twentieth-Century' label was dropped and the series became simply 'Penguin Classics' like its older sibling series of pre-twentieth-century literature. However, any confusion over which was which was avoided by their different cover treatments. A new art director, Pascal Hutton, commissioned Jamie Keenan to redesign the Modern Classics covers, and Keenan's use of silver spines and back covers – with a matching silver panel across the base of the front cover for the logo, author's name and title – was in strong contrast to the black and cream livery which was still in use for the older Classics.

GEORGE ORWELL Nineteen Eighty-Four, 2000 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Reissued in Penguin Modern Classics 2000 with an introduction by Ben Pimlott.
The cover shows Abstract Painting (1992) by Stephen Conroy, at the
Hiscox Collection in London.
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JOHN WYNDHAM The Day of the Triffids, 2000 The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

Reissued in Penguin Modern Classics 2000 with an introduction by Barry Langford.
The cover photography is by NCI / Science Photo Library.
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JOHN WYNDHAM The Chrysalids, 2000 The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

Reissued in Penguin Modern Classics 2000 with an introduction by M John Harrison.
The cover illustration is by Andy Bridge.
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JOHN WYNDHAM The Midwich Cuckoos, 2000 The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham

Reissued in Penguin Modern Classics 2000 with an introduction by Christopher Priest.
The cover photography is by Andy White / Tony Stone Images.
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ANTHONY BURGESS A Clockwork Orange, 2000 A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

2000 reprint with an introduction by Blake Morrison.
The cover photography is by Véronique Rolland.
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The reissue of A Clockwork Orange as a Modern Classic moved away from the cogs and eyes of earlier covers to show a glass of 'the old moloko' that Alex and his droogs drank each night in the Korova Milkbar prior to a bit of ultra-violence.

PIERRE BOULLE Planet of the Apes, 2001 Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle

Reissued in Penguin Modern Classics 2001 with an introduction by Brian Aldiss.
The cover photography is by John Cancalosi / Bruce Coleman.
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PHILIP K DICK The Man in the High Castle, 2001 The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick

Reissued in Penguin Modern Classics 2001 with an introduction by Eric Brown.
The cover photography is by Jamie Keenan.
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In 2004 a white band was introduced across the front covers, similar to the one now used on the Classics series following its redesign in 2003. It was a minor change but a considerable aesthetic improvement. By separating the artwork from the silver panel, the band avoided the kind of colour clashes seen on some of Keenan's earlier covers, above. The band was also used to restore the Modern Classics name and to relocate the logo, resulting in a crisper, fresher overall look.

GEORGE ORWELL Nineteen Eighty-Four, 2004 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

2004 reprint with cover photography by Philippa Bogle.
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JOHN WYNDHAM The Day of the Triffids, 2004 The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

2004 reprint with an introduction by Barry Langford.
The cover photography is by NCI / Science Photo Library.
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ANTHONY BURGESS A Clockwork Orange, 2005 A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

2005 reprint with an introduction by Blake Morrison.
The cover photography is by Véronique Rolland.
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The white band perhaps had its greatest impact on the cover of A Clockwork Orange. Uncoupled from the silver panel, the image becomes an artwork, and thus recalls a seminal piece of 1970s conceptual art by Michael Craig-Martin, who placed a glass of water on a shelf and used the idea of transubstantiation to argue that it was, in fact, An Oak Tree.

MICHAEL CRAIG MARTIN An Oak Tree, 1973 An Oak Tree

Michael Craig-Martin

1973

National Gallery of Australia, with an artist's copy at the Tate Modern in London.

A Science Fiction Omnibus is a revised version of « The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus » from 1973, and replaces fifteen of the original stories with nine new ones plus John Crowley's novella Great Work of Time.

BRIAN ALDISS (Ed) A Science Fiction Omnibus, 2007 A Science Fiction Omnibus edited by Brian Aldiss

Thirty short stories and a novella, first published in Penguin Modern Classics November 2007 with a cover illustration by Jim Burns. The new stories are:

• James Tiptree, Jr : And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side
• Bruce Sterling : Swarm
• Greg Bear : Blood Music
• Fredric Brown : Answer
• Kim Stanley Robinson : Sexual Dimorphism
• Eliza Blair : Friends in Need
• James Inglis : Night Watch
• Ted Chiang : Story of Your Life
• Garry Kilworth : Alien Embassy
• John Crowley : Great Work of Time
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The Modern Classics cover design in use today was introduced in September 2007 and plays down the series name, which sits almost unnoticed in the lower left corner. With the exception of two white bands the artwork fills the entire cover, as if subscribing to the marketing mantra that nowadays image is everything. Or is it? For stamped across the artwork in a giant typeface are the author's name and title, and it is not clear if the text or image takes precedence.

GEORGE ORWELL Nineteen Eighty-Four, 2007 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

2007 reprint with cover photography by Philippa Bogle.
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ANTHONY BURGESS A Clockwork Orange, 2008 A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

2008 reprint with with an introduction by Blake Morrison.
The cover photography is by Véronique Rolland.
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The design is big, bold and brave but it is not easy to get right. The artwork needs strong colours to bring it forward, although this can interfere with the typography, while the latter tends to obscure lighter images. This is perhaps most evident on the cover of A Clockwork Orange, where the artwork is all but lost beneath the author's name and title.

JOHN WYNDHAM The Chrysalids, 2008 The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

2008 reprint with an introduction by M John Harrison.
The cover illustration is by Andy Bridge.
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BRIAN ALDISS (Ed) A Science Fiction Omnibus, 2008 A Science Fiction Omnibus edited by Brian Aldiss

2008 reprint with a cover illustration by Jim Burns.
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Spot the difference: at first glance the cover art on the 2008 reprint of A Science Fiction Omnibus is the same as the previous year's edition, but wait – who's turned the ship around?

KURT VONNEGUT Cat's Cradle, 2008 Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Reissued in Penguin Modern Classics May 2008 with an introduction by Benjamin Kunkel.
The cover illustration is by Julian House.
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BRIAN ALDISS Hothouse, 2008 Hothouse by Brian Aldiss

First published 1962.

Published in Penguin Modern Classics August 2008 with an introduction by Neil Gaiman.
The cover photography is by Carl Glover.
JOHN WYNDHAM The Day of the Triffids, 2008 The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

2008 reprint with an introduction by Barry Langford.
The cover illustration is by Andy Bridge.
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AYN RAND Anthem, 2008 AYN RAND Anthem, 2008 Anthem by Ayn Rand

First published 1938.

Published in Penguin Modern Classics September 2008
(far left) with an introduction by Leonard Peikoff. The cover shows a detail from The Sleeper (La dormeuse, 1934) by Tamara de Lempicka.

Left: The book as first announced.

Anthem tells the poetic and deeply moving story of Equality 7-2521 and his love for Liberty 5-3000 in a future totalitarian society of collectivism and the ineffable 'I'. The novella may not have the literal weight of Rand's much longer and better known novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, but it is nonetheless a gem of sparkling beauty, made more so by its cover painting, which shows a detail from The Sleeper by the Polish art deco painter Tamara de Lempicka.

HARRY HARRISON Make Room! Make Room!, 2009 Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison

Reissued in Penguin Modern Classics February 2009 with cover photography
by Ondrea Barbe.
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JOHN CHRISTOPHER The Death of Grass, 2009 The Death of Grass by John Christopher

Reissued in Penguin Modern Classics March 2009 with an introduction by Robert Macfarlane. The cover photography is by Image 100 / Corbis.
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GEORGE ORWELL Nineteen Eighty-Four, 2009 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

2009 reprint with with an introduction by D J Taylor.
The cover illustration is by Marion Deuchars.
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David Bowie was the ideal alien to star in the 1976 film version of The Man Who Fell to Earth given his prog rock renderings of science-fictional themes in the late '60s and early '70s such as Space Oddity, a song about a depressed astronaut called Major Tom that was played on BBC television during its coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.

Bowie followed this in 1971-72 with songs such as Starman, Life on Mars? and Oh! You Pretty Things (his take on the rise of Homo superior), while the year after the cinema release of The Man Who Fell to Earth a photograph of Bowie as the film's eponymous alien was used on the sleeve of his 1977 album Low.

WALTER TEVIS The Man Who Fell to Earth, 2009 The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis

First published 1963.

Published in Penguin Modern Classics August 2009. The cover shows David Bowie as The Man Who Fell to Earth in the 1976 film adaptation by the English director Nicolas Roeg.

The Man Who Fell to Earth is a superb novel that more than merits its Modern Classic status. Set over a five-year period from 1985 to 1990, it tells of an alien from the planet Anthea who travels to Earth on a mission to save his species from extinction, as water, fuel and other natural resources on his home planet are all but exhausted and fewer than three hundred Antheans remain alive. Masquerading as a human named Thomas Jerome Newton, the alien rapidly acquires enormous wealth which he uses to fund the project that will rescue the dying Antheans. But overcome by isolation and loneliness he suffers an existential crisis and gradually goes native, becoming psychologically more human than Anthean.

In fact, as the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once put it, he is all too human, as he sinks into alcoholism, abandons the project and records an album of poetry in his native language. Unintelligible to humans, it is an elegiac farewell to the Anthean race that is monitoring Earth's radio and television transmissions for news of the rescue mission.

A recurring metaphor throughout the book is that of another man who fell to earth, and two of the novel's three sections – Icarus Descending and Icarus Drowning – are named after him. In Greek mythology, Icarus and his father Daedalus attempt to escape from their imprisonment on the island of Crete using wings that Daedalus fashions from feathers held together with wax. Daedalus warns his son not to fly too close to the sun but Icarus ignores his father and the sun melts the wax, his wings disintegrate and he plunges into the sea. The novel contains numerous references to The Fall of Icarus, a painting formerly attributed to the sixteenth-century Flemish artist Pieter Brueghel the Elder, and given this linkage it is tempting to imagine how the book might have appeared if Penguin had published it in the 1960s >>

JOHN WYNDHAM Chocky, 2010 Chocky by John Wyndham

Reissued in Penguin Modern Classics March 2010 with an introduction by Brian Aldiss.
The cover illustration is by Andy Bridge.
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It was widely reported in 2008 that the Hollywood director Steven Spielberg had acquired the rights to John Wyndham's Chocky but no further news emerged until Penguin announced it was reissuing the novel as a Modern Classic 'to tie in with the release of the Steven Spielberg film'. Meanwhile, the director himself remains curiously silent.

FRED HOYLE The Black Cloud, 2010 The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle

Reissued in Penguin Modern Classics September 2010 with an afterword by Richard Dawkins. The cover illustration is by John Griffiths.
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According to « the Penguin blog » the reissue of The Black Cloud in September 2010 was triggered by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland five months earlier, when a huge cloud of volcanic ash drifted across Europe, grounding thousands of flights and causing widespread disruption. The incident had reminded Stefan McGrath, Managing Director of Penguin Press, of a novel his friend had raved about, in which a giant cloud engulfs the Earth with devastating results. A web search brought up Fred Hoyle's novel, which Penguin had published fifty years earlier, so it was reissued as a Modern Classic with a cover based on John Griffiths' original illustration. Then McGrath realized that the novel his friend had recommended wasn't The Black Cloud after all. It was « The Purple Cloud » by M P Shiel.

KINGLSEY AMIS New Maps of Hell, 2012 New Maps of Hell by Kingsley Amis

First published 1960.

Published in Penguin Modern Classics June 2012.



'...to reach any but the nearest stars would take several hundred years even
if one travelled at the speed of light, in the course of doing which one would,
if I understand Einstein's popularisers correctly, become infinite in mass
and zero in volume, and this is felt to be undesirable.'

It may not look like sf and technically it isn't, but New Maps of Hell was the first book by an author of mainstream literature not only to offer a critique of science fiction but also mount a case in its defence. For Amis was well aware of the dismissive, if not derisive view of sf 'among the otherwise intelligent' and attributed it to a 'lack of acquaintance'. The book is based on a series of lectures Amis gave at Princeton University in 1959, and his choice of sf as a suitable subject for Ivy League students gave the genre an air of respectability which New Maps took to a mass audience. For Amis to undertake a serious treatment of sf prompted others to re-evaluate the genre and the book became a landmark text.

Amis is best known for novels such as Lucky Jim and The Old Devils but 1960 was his sf year, for in addition to New Maps of Hell he also published two science fiction stories, Something Strange and Hemingway in Space. The first of these subsequently appeared in « My Enemy's Enemy » which Penguin published in 1965, while both appeared in his Collected Short Stories and Complete Stories, which Penguin published in 1983 and 2011 respectively.

PHILIP K DICK The Man in the High Castle, 2012 The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick

2012 reprint with an introduction by Eric Brown.
The cover shows a detail from Star Spangled Shadows (2008) by Faile.
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GEORGE ORWELL Nineteen Eighty-Four, 2013 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

2013 reprint with a cover illustration by Marion Deuchars.
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STANISLAW LEM The Cyberiad, 2014 The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem

First published in 1965 as Cyberiada.

Published in Penguin Modern Classics June 2014
with a cover illustration by Hayley Warnham.
L P HARTLEY Facial Justice, 2014 Facial Justice by L P Hartley

Reissued in Penguin Modern Classics September 2014 with an introduction
by John Sutherland. The cover photograph is by Jasper James.
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