You're probably familiar with the term "pulp fiction," referring to books printed on cheap "pulp" paper with covers featuring sexy illustrations of bombshells and studs. Originating in the first half of the 20th century, these books weren't known for their quality; these were lowbrow detective novels, romances, and sci-fi aimed at the general public.
But pulp covers aren't only reserved for second-rate titles. Classic works of literature have been reimagined in the lurid style, too. As Emily Temple at Lit Hub reported, pulp editions of classic novels have been printed since the 1940s and '50s, and they were done in the same style as the genre fodder. The strategy here was to sell the literary canon to the average reader, even though they would likely find that the book they were reading was not as sexy as the cover seemed to imply (although, as readers of the classics know, those hallowed tomes have their risqué moments, too.)
Temple has compiled 50 of these over-the-top, endlessly absurd covers for your browsing pleasure, including works from Jane Austen, the Brontës, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and George Orwell. Here are a few of the best:
Of course Signet picked 1984's Junior Anti-Sex League as the source of the cover art for this 1954 edition of George Orwell's classic. Sex sells, and so does slapping the words "Forbidden Love" on the cover. As for this copy of Heart of Darkness from 1952: literally everyone on the cover is shirtless.
The red lipstick and the pose make Madame Bovary look more like a 1950s pin-up girl than a woman living in the 19th century.
What are these people's clothes made out of? Silk? Clouds? Mist?
Head to Lit Hub to peruse the full collection.
[h/t Lit Hub]