Penguin Clothbound Classics: Collector's Guide and FAQ

About the books

The first ‘official’ books in the Penguin Clothbound Classics books were released in 2008 by Penguin UK (more abuot this below) and were initially only offered through the UK-based bookstore Waterstones. These ten earliest editions can be identified by numbers on the spines. All the books in the series have distinctive covers with each being designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith, and featuring a repeating pattern made from a motif from the story stamped in foil onto a linen-like cloth cover. Coralie has said her intent in designing the series was ‘to hark back to the world of Victorian bindings and a golden age of book binding’. The books also feature coloured endpapers and an integrated ribbon bookmark.

penguin clothbound early numbered set

How many books are in the series?

This is an ongoing series, so the book count changes every year. As of 2020, there are at least 80 volumes in the series, with 3 more expected in early 2021. The reason I say ‘at least’, is because there is some disagreement over whether you count the India Special Editions (which were published by Penguin India, do not have the ribbon bookmark and were not designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith); the leather-bound classics which have similar cover designs and overlapping titles, but are bound in a different material; the boxed sets; the clothbound poetry series; the clothbound children’s classics; the original ‘precursor’ clothbound classics and other out-of-series volumes published in the early years; and/or the reprints with different cover colours. (There is even some debate over the inclusion of The Pearl, as this was a separate commission by V&A, but it was produced in the same design as the rest of the series and I tend to think it counts.)

Are there any rare volumes?

Yes! The rarest volume is the first printing of Crime and Punishment, one of the first 10 titles released in 2008. The red foiled design on fawn covers for this initial print run caused problems at the printing press, and so it ended up having to be hand-foiled. Because of this, there was only a limited print run of this volume and it is the rarest volume in the series. The title was later reprinted in 2018 with a black linen binding (which is not a rare edition). The 2008 edition of Madame Bovary also went out of print and a newer edition was reprinted in 2014. Several of the India Special Editions are currently out of print, as are the Proust series. If you include the out-of-series volumes, the Tibetan Book of the Dead is also very hard to track down. In addition, some books were reprinted with slightly differing cloth covers (e.g. Great Expectations covers can look navy or blue-black), and the earliest printings on the first 10 books are differentiated by having numbers on the spines (as you can see in the image above) which later printings lack. Where possible, the relevant isbns for these rare editions are listed below to help you find them if you’re completing a collection.

Another rarity are the ‘Clothbound Jane Austen’ bookends, which were available at the Penguin shop for a while but are sadly now sold out.

These lovely pieces were handcrafted from a solid piece of Prime Grade English Oak in a Surrey Hills workshop, and engraved with the intricate flower design that features on the Sense and Sensibility volume.

How well are the books made? What is the binding like? Can you clean the covers?

The books in the Penguin Clothbound Classics series have lovely cloth covers, which have a nice linen-like texture, but the foiling/printing on the cover is a little fragile and will likely rub off if you have them tightly stacked in the shelf. Unfortunately, the internals are what I consider to be quite low quality (e.g. they use Forest Stewardship Council-approved paper, but not acid-free so it may brown over time) with a glued binding. I would estimate with the most careful of handling, they will probably last for about 40 years at the most. It is also worth noting that the covers can be hard to clean because the surface is textured cloth, and the cover design does come off if you are not careful.

Where are the books made? Are the US and UK editions different?

The books I have were printed in St Ives, England (printed by Penguin UK). The US editions (Penguin Random House) are sometimes printed / released later than the UK editions (I have given UK publication dates below), although having the same ISBN and usually available during the same calendar year. Dye colours on the fabric can be slightly different. And the books are harder to find in the US, so even though they may be out of print there it is worth checking the UK for books that are on the verge of going out of print as they usually do a larger print run.

Is there a cheaper way to buy them? Are they available in boxed sets?

Prices of the books go up and down, but they are generally pretty affordable. There are a few boxed sets available for selected authors, namely Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and Charles Dickens. I have included these below at the end of the book list.

Penguin Clothbound Classics - The Complete List

Out-of-series clothbound classics (6 titles)

Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen

Notes: Translated by Tiina Nunnally. Published September 30, 2004. ISBN 9780713996418.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead

Notes: Translated by Gyurme Dorje. Published October 27, 2005. ISBN 9780713994148. OOP.

Penguin’s Poems for Life selected by Laura Barber

Notes: Published November 1, 2007. ISBN 9780713999617.

Penguin’s Poems for Love selected by Laura Barber

Notes: *Only quarter clothbound, so not really part of the series but included here as a companion to the Poems for Life. Published November 24, 2009. ISBN 9781846141690. OOP.

Tales from 1001 Nights: Aladdin, Ali Baba and other favourites

Notes: Translated by Malcolm and Ursula Lyons. Abridged. Published February 22, 2011. ISBN 9780141191652. OOP.

Penguin Poems for Weddings selected by Laura Barber

Notes: Published June 5, 2014. ISBN 9780141439457. OOP.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Notes: Translated by Richard Pevear. Published October 5, 2006. ISBN 9780713999525. OOP.

2008 (10 titles)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Notes: Introduced by Tony Tanner. Published November 6, 2008. ISBN 9780141040349.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Notes: Introduced by Tony Tanner. Published November 6, 2008. ISBN 9780141040370.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Notes: Introduced by David Trotter. Published November 6, 2008. ISBN 9780141040363.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Notes: Published November 6, 2008. ISBN 9780141040318. OOP.

*Reprinted August 7, 2014.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Notes: Published November 6, 2008. ISBN 9780141040356.

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Notes: Introduced by Patricia Ingham. Published November 6, 2008. ISBN 9780141442549.

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Notes: Published November 6, 2008. ISBN 9780141040332.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Notes: Translated by David McDuff. Published November 6, 2008. ISBN 9780140455687. OOP.

*Reprinted October 9, 2018 .

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Notes: Published November 6, 2008. ISBN 9780141040387.

The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde

Notes: Published November 6, 2008. ISBN 9780141442464.

2009 (10 titles)

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Notes: (Includes Good Wives). Published October 1, 2009. ISBN 9780141192413.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Notes: Published October 1, 2009. ISBN 9780141192420.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

Notes: Published October 1, 2009. ISBN 9780141192437.

The Odyssey by Homer

Notes: Introduced by Peter Jones. Published October 1, 2009. ISBN 9780141192444.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carrol

Notes: Illustrated by John Tenniel. Published October 1, 2009. ISBN 9780141192468.

❦ See also The Alice in Wonderland collection

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Notes: Published October 1, 2009. ISBN 9780141192451.

Emma by Jane Austen

Notes: Introduced by Fiona Stafford. Published October 1, 2009. ISBN 9780141192475.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence

Notes: Introduced by Doris Lessing. Published October 1, 2009. ISBN 9780141192482.

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Notes: Published October 1, 2009. ISBN 9780141192499.

The Sonnets and A Lover’s Complaint by William Shakespeare

Notes: Published October 1, 2009. ISBN 9780141192574.

2010 (7 titles, including the India Special Editions)

A Christmas Carol and other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens

Notes: Published September 25, 2010. ISBN 9780141195858.

Inferno: The Divine Comedy I by Dante

Notes: Translated by Robin Kirkpatrick. Published September 25, 2010. ISBN 9780141195872.

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Notes: Published November 25, 2010. ISBN 9780141196640.

The Qu’ran

Notes: Translated by Tarif Khalidi. Published September 2, 2010. ISBN 9780670084173India Special Edition. OOP.

The Ramayana

Notes: Translated by Arshia Sattar Valmiki. Published September 2, 2010. ISBN 9780670084180India Special Edition. OOP.

The Mahābhārata

Notes: Translated by John D. Smith. Published September 2, 2010. ISBN 9780670084159India Special Edition.

The Bhagavad Gita

Notes: Translated by Juan Mascaro. Published September 2, 2010. ISBN 9780670084166India Special Edition. OOP.

2011 (8 titles)

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Notes: Illustrated by Ang Lee. Published June 2, 2011. ISBN 9780141196886.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Notes: Published June 2, 2011. ISBN 9780141196909.

Middlemarch by George Elliot

Notes: Published June 2, 2011. ISBN 9780141196893.

Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Notes: Published October 6, 2011. ISBN 9780141198347.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Notes: Published October 6, 2011. ISBN 9780141198354.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Notes: Published November 3, 2011. ISBN 9780141197708.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Notes: Published November 3, 2011. ISBN 9780141197715.

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Notes: Published November 3, 2011. ISBN 9780141197692.

2012 (3 titles)

Jabberwocky and Other Nonsense by Lewis Carroll

Notes: Published September 6, 2012. ISBN 9780141195940.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Notes: Translated by Norman Denny. Published October 25, 2012. ISBN 9781846140495.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Notes: Translated by Robin Buss. Published November 29, 2012. ISBN 9780141392462.

2013 (8 titles)

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery

Notes: Introduced by John Carey. Published March 7, 2013. ISBN 9780141199542.

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

Notes: Introduced for Andrew Delbanco. Published September 26, 2013. ISBN 9780141199603.

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Notes: Published September 26, 2013. ISBN 9780141393384.

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Notes: Translated by Nevill Coghill. Published September 26, 2013. ISBN 9780141393216.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Notes: Published October 3, 2013. ISBN 9780141393391.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Notes: Published October 31, 2013. ISBN 9780141199573.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Notes: Published November 28, 2013. ISBN 9780141393407.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Notes: Introduced by Richard Pevear. Published November 28, 2013. ISBN 9780141199610.

2014 (8 titles + 1 reprint)

Metamorphoses by Ovid

Notes: Translated by David Raeburn. Published April 3, 2104. ISBN 9780141394619.

Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling

Notes: Published April 3, 2013. ISBN 9780141394626.

Paradise Lost by John Milton

Notes: Published May 1, 2014. ISBN 9780141394633.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Notes: Published May 1, 2014. ISBN 9780141394640.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Notes: Published August 7, 2014. ISBN 9780141394688.

Love and Freindship by Jane Austen

Notes: Published September 25, 2014. ISBN 9780140433340.

Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

Notes: Published November 6, 2014. ISBN 9780141394664.

The Iliad by Homer

Notes: Translated by E.V. Rieu and Peter Jones. Published November 6, 2014. ISBN 9780141394657.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (*reprint)

Notes: Published August 7, 2014. ISBN 9780141394671.

First published November 6, 2008.

2015 (1 title)

The Travels by Marco Polo

Notes: Translated by Nigel Cliff. Published February 26, 2015. ISBN 9780141198774.

2016 (12 titles)

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Notes: Published January 6, 2016. ISBN 9780241265543.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

Notes: Published Jnaruary 28, 2016. ISBN 9780241198957.

Villette by Charlotte Bronte

Notes: Published February 26, 2016. ISBN 9780241198964.

Naked Lunch by William D Burroughs

Notes: Published October 6, 2016. ISBN 9780241284636.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Notes: Translated by Andrea Ashworth. Published October 6, 2016. ISBN 9780241281901.

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Notes: Introduced by Sandra Gilbert. Published October 6, 2016. ISBN 9780241284643.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Notes: Published October 6, 2016. ISBN 9780241284667.

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The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

Notes: Introduced by Barry Langford. Published October 6, 2016. ISBN 9780241284674.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Notes: Published October 20, 2016. ISBN 9780241284629.

Remembrance of Things Past: Volume 1 by Marcel Proust

Notes: Translated by C. K. Scott. Published November 24, 2016. ISBN 9780241205921.

Remembrance of Things Past: Volume 2 by Marcel Proust

Notes: Translated by C. K. Scott. Published November 24, 2016. ISBN 9780241205945.

Remembrance of Things Past: Volume 3 by Marcel Proust

Notes: Translated by C. K. Scott. Published November 24, 2016. ISBN 9780241205969.

2017 (1 title)

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Notes: Published April 27, 2017. ISBN 9780241198773.

2018 (5 titles + 1 reprint)

Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes

Notes: Published July 5, 2018. ISBN 9780241347768.

The Ring of the Nibelung by Richard Wagner

Notes: Published June 7, 2018. ISBN 9780241305850.

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

Notes: Published September 6, 2018. ISBN 9780241347775.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Notes: Published September 6, 2018. ISBN 9780241347782.

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

Notes: Published December 6, 2018. ISBN 9780241382707.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (*reprint)

Notes: Translated by David McDuff. Published October 9, 2018. ISBN 9780241347683.

*Original edition published November 6, 2008.

2019 (3 titles)

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

Notes: Published July 4, 2019. ISBN 9780241382691.

Tales from 1001 Nights

Notes: Published September 5, 2019. ISBN 9780241382714.

Sanditon by Jane Austen

Notes: Published September 12, 2019. ISBN 9780241436585.

2020 (4 titles)

Grimm Tales for Young and Old by Philip Pullman

Notes: Translated by George M Towles. Published October 1, 2020. ISBN 9780241472729.

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Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Notes: Introduced by Elaine Showalter. Published November 5, 2020. ISBN 9780241468647.

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The Aeneid by Virgil

Notes: Introduced by David West. Published November 5, 2020. ISBN 9780141994222.

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Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Notes: Published November 5, 2020. ISBN 9780241468654.

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2021 (3 titles *anticipated)

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Notes: Published January 7 2021. ISBN 9780241453513.

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Animal Farm by George Orwell

Notes: Published January 7 2021. ISBN 9780241453865.

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Monkey King by Wu Cheng’en

Notes: Translated by Julia Lovell. Published 11 February 2021. ISBN 9780141393445.

Boxed Sets

Charles Dickens Box Set

Notes: Published November 23, 2011. ISBN 9780141198415.

Jane Austen Box Set

Notes: Published October 30, 2014. ISBN 9780141395203.

The Bronte Sisters Box Set

Notes: Published November 22, 2016. ISBN 9780241248768.

Proust Box Set

Notes: Published December 1, 2016. ISBN 9780241300695.

Thomas Hardy Box Set

Notes: Published August 29, 2019. ISBN 9780241382721.