World’s Classics Red vs World’s Classics Blue


If you’ve ever scavenged used bookstores for novels, you might have seen book covers from the Oxford World’s Classics series both in familiar red and white in an the unusual blue and white. I know I have.

For years, I’ve wondered about why this was so, even for seemingly identical editions of War and Peace and The Canterbury Tales. I wondered, perhaps, if the blue covers were printed in Scotland rather than in England, for blue was the Scottish national colour? But no, some blue covers were also printed in England. I’ve also asked many a bookseller and I’ve checked many websites about the differences, but no one ever had the answer. But it wasn’t until last week when it dawned on me to just fire off an email to the Oxford University Press (OUP).

According to Judith Luna, Senior Commissioning Editor of Oxford World’s Classics, the blue covers were withdrawn by the OUP after Penguin Books claimed that the books were too similar to the Penguin Classics series. So, the OUP withdrew the books and printed the now familiar red and white books instead.

Hmm… this must make the blue covers a bit rare.