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It was a pretty close scrape, but it looks like the more modern-looking aqua cover for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea won by a nose. (You fans of the more traditional, steampunk looking cover, I hope you’re not overly disappointed in the result!)

Stay tuned to find out how to win this as a digital print:

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - winning cover design

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Richard Burton in "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold"

Richard Burton as Alec Leamas, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (Ritt, 1965)

This past week I’ve been in Berlin, Germany on business β€” and that’s the reason activity at this blog has slowed to a stand-still. Never fear, though! I have returned, and will be ramping up speed at this blog again. Keep tuning in: find out which 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea book cover emerged victorious in the poll, and find out how to win a print. Also, stay tuned for discussions on King Solomon’s Mines, by H. Rider Haggard.

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One person has reported difficulty submitting their vote on the book covers poll (below). You can also tell me which is your favorite by leaving a comment. Just please don’t abuse the system to double-vote! πŸ™‚

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20000 Leagues Under the Sea book coverNow, I know one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But as a reader who is also a graphic designer and a very visually-oriented person, I appreciate when a publisher puts some thought into the exterior of the book.20000 Leagues Under the Sea cover art

I have to say that whatever disappointments I might claim to have had with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, they began on the surface. I ordered my copy online from Amazon.com, and I’m sure what guided my decision more than anything was the price. I was fortunate to have picked the restored and annotated version, having ordered the book before I was aware of its turbulent translation history. Had I browsed the bookstore for a copy, I’m sure I would have picked up the one with the slickest cover, and this might not have been the one with the best innards. That being said, I was pretty disappointed when my copy arrived in the mail. For one thing, at 7″x10″, it’s not the size book you can easily wag around with you on an airplane (though I did exactly that, en route to Albuquerque for my 10 year high school reunion). And for another, the 1993 Naval Institute Press publication is something of an eyesore:

20000 Leagues Under the Sea - Naval Institute Press cover (1993)

Believe it or not, it shows up a little better on your screen due to the nature of monitor color; in the printed form, where ink gains on paper, the dark red title is completely lost against the murky green-and-red artwork. And I don’t mean to be criticizing the art (which I believe is by Milo Winter, although this fact is not attributed anywhere that I can see on the book cover). The blame must be put on the designer β€” or, in the apparent lack of one, on whomever was assigned those duties. Even if the title had been set in a color which didn’t mush into the background, little of the art would be seen due to the unnecessarily gigantic size of the type!

So, when I began to blog about reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I set out to find a fun image of the book cover to insert into my posts, to keep things lively. I was frustrated that I never really found an exciting cover design. One of the issues that has long plagued English translations of Verne’s adventure stories is that, due to the errors in translation, Verne has been considered an author of children’s adventures, and indeed many of the covers I came across seemed to be geared for younger audiences.

20000 Leagues Under the Sea book cover

20000 Leagues Under the Sea cover art

With no engaging cover art to be found, I decided I would design my own. I’m not a designer of dust jackets by trade, and I’m sure there are as many rules and tricks in that game as there are in designing movie posters. Oblivious to whatever regulations there may be, I’m fairly pleased with the outcome of my experiment, and I think I’ll make it a custom for books I read in the future (my brain is all ready percolating with concepts for the cover of King Solomon’s Mines, and the forthcoming biographical post about H. Rider Haggard β€” as well as future author bios on this site β€” will be written with the express intent of plugging it in to the “author flap” down the road).

The only problem is that I came up with two concepts, and I can’t decide between them. That’s where I need your help. I’m posting both concepts below. Please take a moment to evaluate them, and scroll below the images to a poll and tell me which one you prefer. I will make the winning cover available as a digital print (details to come). Thanks for your vote!

20000 Leagues Under the Sea - dust jacket design #1

1) The dust jacket as it would appear in its entirety, unfolded and flattened out

dust jacket design 1, front cover and spineDust jacket design 1, inner flapsDust jacket design 1, back and spine

20000 Leagues Under the Sea - dust jacket design #2

2) The dust jacket as it would appear in its entirety, unfolded and flattened out.

dust jacket design, front cover and spinedust jacket design, inner flapsdust jacket design, back and spine

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photography courtesy of Camile O’Briant

Don’t forget to vote for your favorite one!

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