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"Westminster" painting by George Hyde Pownall

Charles Dickens, London Fog, and the Making of a Book Set

You don’t have to be a voracious reader to love surrounding yourself with books or enjoy having books in your home. Books are sources of inspiration, information, entertainment and are artworks in their own right. Inside and out. 

With so many great books in the world to choose from, you might wonder…

  • How does Juniper Books decide which books to make a special edition set of books from?

  • How do we decide what artwork to put on the jackets we design and print?

Let’s dig into our brand new Charles Dickens set as an example of how we make some of our decisions!

First of all, this is actually our third Charles Dickens set! Our first Dickens offering was a twelve volume book set shown below.

While the portrait of Dickens across the spines is iconic, we think our brand new redesign hits the Dickensian London vibe the best of all of our creations!

The newest Charles Dickens set from Juniper Books, a five volume set of classics with a foggy painting of Westminster in London


On the Juniper Custom side of the business, our Founder, Thatcher Wine, has personally curated multiple collections of Charles Dickens rare and first editions over the years. One collection of books took 8 years to complete with just the right editions in top condition.

Charles Dickens First Editions

Fun Fact:

Did you know that Dickens made two trips to America in the 19th century? In 1842 and 1867-68 to be exact. Wherever he went, he was greeted like a rock star. Dickens was perhaps the first global "pop culture" celebrity to tour America.

So, while Juniper Books these days focuses a lot on pop culture book sets published in the 2000s, pop culture is constantly evolving. There are always books that stand the test of time and inspire future writers. These Dickens' classics capture the essence of their era, while also exploring universal themes that resonate with readers of all ages.

Whether it's the coming-of-age stories of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye or the dystopian visions of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, these books and the novels of Charles Dickens have had a profound impact on popular culture. They continue to be read and reread by generations of readers, and their influence can be seen in everything from movies and TV shows to music and fashion.

We wish we had enough time to create a book set for every writer who has ever published more than 3 books! (We say 3 books because it’s helpful to have at least that many to put a beautiful design across the spines.)

Creating a Design:

“A lot of what we do is about turning books inside out,” our Founder, Thatcher likes to say. “We take the emotions, the feelings, from inside the books and put them on this visible canvas across multiple books. That way when you walk into a room and look at the bookshelves, you instantly feel what the books are about.”

For each book jacket design we create we consider the work of each author and pull that into the design to provide a collectible cover, and a work of art in its own right. Our philosophy? We believe that if you print something and it takes physical space, it should be worth keeping forever.

Perhaps Dickens said it best in Oliver Twist, “There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.” While that’s true about a lot of books,  we don’t think that’s actually true about the books we sell! They are meant to be great inside and out. 

Is that a Turner painting across the spines?

The painting we chose for the Dickens set looks a lot like it could have been created by JMW Turner (1775-1851), with its moody coloring and setting. However, it’s a work entitled “Westminster” by George Hyde Pownall (1866-1939). Both artists overlapped with the life of Charles Dickens.

On the front and back covers of each jacket are reproductions of the original Charles Dickens first edition covers. When Dickens published these books, they were not complete books. Instead, he released them in softcover serialized “parts” - three chapters at a time - maximizing the anticipation and profitability for each story. 

Pownall's Art  Bridges Perfectly to Dickens' Victorian London

Pownall was a celebrated British painter who made a name for himself through his portrayal of urban landscapes. His paintings are known for their gritty realism and atmospheric beauty. This makes them the perfect visual accompaniment to Dickens' novels, which are also known for their vivid depiction of the gritty streets of Victorian London.

Pownall's paintings often feature the same working-class characters and iconic landmarks that populate Dickens' novels. In his painting "Westminster," for example, we see a group of working-class people gathered in front of the Houses of Parliament. This scene is reminiscent of many scenes in Dickens' novels, such as the opening scene of Bleak House, which takes place in a crowded London courtroom.

Dickens inspired many writers who we love including J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Jordan and J.K Rowling. We hope Dickens fans, as well as book lovers, London aficionados, and many others love this set and appreciate what we do with art and literature and books!

(The Juniper Books 2023 Dickens set contains: Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Pickwick Papers, and Great Expectations published by Everyman's Library.)

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