The cover of the Union Square edition of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen features a watercolor portrait by Bil Donovan. This image portrays Elizabeth Bennet in a big, dramatic ball gown that takes up most of the cover. Behind her, Mr. Darcy lurks, his eyes fixated on Elizabeth. Above them hangs a grandiose chandelier which signifies that the story depicts people with great wealth. This cover suggests a love story between a beautiful young girl and a man who appears mysterious as he hides in the background with a smug look on his face.
The cover, including the illustration and the font, is very feminine and seems to be directed towards a traditionally female audience. The entire cover is varying shades of purple, which adds to the feminine quality of the edition. Elizabeth’s ball gown is beautiful and feminine, and it draws the eye. This decision makes sense, considering a majority of Pride and Prejudice’s fans are women.
This illustration could be a depiction of how Elizabeth and Darcy initially view each other – their first impression. She sees him as a mystery, a quiet man with great wealth, antisocial and unapproachable. Darcy sees her as a girl in a dress, but he does not see who Elizabeth is yet, thus why her face has such faint watercolor in contrast to her bold dress and to Mr. Darcy, whose face is clearly defined.
Darcy is an antisocial character, especially compared to others in the novel. His image on the cover as a dark figure lurking in the shadows is only a slightly dramatized version of reality. Throughout the novel, Darcy sulks in the shadows, often refraining from dancing during balls, and being quite rude to Elizabeth when they finally do dance.
The cover image represents their first impressions of each other, but it also depicts the longing that Darcy ends up feeling for Elizabeth. He is pictured watching her from afar while she seems to be fixated with something else, her back facing Darcy. This display of indifference could represent her interest in Mr. Wickham, or when Elizabeth rejects Darcy’s first proposal.
My first impression of this cover told me that Pride and Prejudice is a novel full of juicy romance that takes place in an older time period where balls were had and fancy gowns were worn. Elizabeth and Darcy’s outfits reflect great wealth, and both their characters exude high class and glamor in this illustration, even more so than is portrayed in the films.
Back Cover Blurb and Art
The back cover of this edition contains a blurb enticing readers to choose the novel, calling Austen’s work a “masterpiece” and a “cornerstone of literary letters for more than two centuries”. It also clearly outlines the two main characters, “the proud Elizabeth Bennet” (Pride) and “the haughty Fitzwilliam Darcy” (Prejudice).
The end of the blurb reveals that this edition “features the full-color art of Bil Donovan, the first appointed artist-in-residence for Christian Dior.” Referencing Christian Dior, a highly respected fashion designer, establishes the illustrators’ credibility as being a talented artist with a refined aesthetic. The audience that would appreciate Dior may similarly enjoy the glamor and wealth that Pride and Prejudice contains and are more likely to be appreciative of this artwork.
Illustrations on the inside
The illustrations continue throughout the novel, one appearing every few chapters. The inside cover contains illustrations that provide many clues to the novel’s content: a chandelier, a candle holder, a vase of flowers, a framed painting, a ring of keys, a quill and ink, a horse drawn carriage, a decadent chair, a peacock, and a collection of books. All these images point towards the time period and social class of these characters, and are all painted in purple to match the cover. The illustrations that appear throughout the book act as a way of breaking up the novel, which can sometimes be perceived as stuffy. The pictures make the book more approachable to readers, and add an element of artistry and design.
This edition was published in 2022, 209 years after the novel was originally published. It depicts the novel's glamor, wealth, and drama in a cool, modern way, potentially drawing in a new generation of Pride and Prejudice fans. The illustrations inside are one of the primary reasons to buy this edition, but readers may also be drawn in by the front cover alone. The cover illustrates the tension and drama between the two main characters, and entices readers to learn more about the love story that will clearly ensue between this beautiful girl and mysterious man.
Amazon.Com: Pride and Prejudice (Deluxe Edition) (Deluxe Illustrated Classics): 9781454947547: Austen, Jane, Donovan, Bil: Books.
“Bil Donovan — Illustration Division.” Illustration Division,
Contributors to Wikimedia projects. “Pride and Prejudice.” Wikipedia, 10 Feb. 2023,
Austen, J., & Donovan, B., (Illustrated by). (2022). Pride and Prejudice. Union Square Co.