The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Virago Modern Classics Daphne du Maurier



This summer UK publisher Virago is publishing two sets of Daphne du Maurier’s most famous titles with new and beautifully illustrated covers.

According to editorial director Donna Coonan, du Maurier’s reputation has flourished in recent years. She is also an author with cross-generational appeal. “The heroines of her best-known novels are young women at a turning point in their lives,” says Coonan. “These are beautifully written books that are exciting, suspenseful and brilliantly atmospheric. There is passion, danger, romance . . . and pirates!”

For over a decade Virago published du Maurier’s backlist with a uniform style. “They sat nicely together in a set, but were starting to look a little dated and lacked individuality,” says art director Nico Taylor. “I had never read du Maurier before, but once I got stuck in I realised just how diverse her writing is which led me to the idea that presenting each novel with a distinctive, individual look would be the best way to ensure du Maurier’s work continues to look fresh.”


For the first three titles in series (there are a staggering 17 or so more to come!), Taylor worked with illustrators Neil Gower (Jamaica Inn, Frenchman’s Creek) and Jordan Metcalf (Rebecca). “It became clear that it would be hard to avoid some of the obvious reference points from each title, but I was keen that they were used in an integrated or suggestive way… all credit has to go to the illustrators for imagining their respective covers in such distinctive ways.”



Alongside this refreshed backlist, Virago is also planning to introduce these same three classics — French Man’s Creek, Jamaica Inn, and Rebecca, — to young adults with new covers by Iacopo Bruno. “This was a great opportunity to show that du Maurier is a big contribution to the gothic novels popular with this age group of readers,” says art director Sophie Burdess. “I wanted to create a set of covers primarily composed of evocative gothic typography that gave du Maurier the authority and appeal she deserves as well as giving a feel for the individual themes of each novel,” she continues. “[Iacopo] is a rare and exceptionally beautiful illustrator and hand lettering artist who knows just how to pitch the work for a younger audience… the task of creating a set of beautiful compositions of elegant hand lettering and vignette illustrations was very safe in his hands.”

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