The Castle of Otranto Book Cover Design

Client Hesperus Press

Format 195 x 125 mm

Skills InDesign, Photoshop, picture research

First published in 1764 and written by Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto is considered to be the first ‘gothic’ novel. It inspired the writing of later authors, such as Bram Stroker, Edgar Allan Poe and Daphne du Maurier.

The Castle of Otranto book cover design. The full cover to the book design featurings the front, back, spine and flaps. The front cover image shows a close-up of a gothic looking candlestick holder, covered in melted candle wax. A dark, grainy, purple coloured wall forms a backdrop to the cover behind the candlestick. The title is in a distressed spikey serif font. Horace Walpole, the author's name, appears at the bottom of the cover. A quote by the Observer newspaper appears at the top of the cover. The back cover features a close-up of the texture of an old distressed piece of granite and includes a quote from the book and a description. A painted portrait of Horace Walpole appears on the back flap along with a biography about him.

The Castle of Otranto book cover design. The front cover features a close-up of a gothic looking candlestick holder, covered in candle wax. The candles in it have already burnt down quite far. The backdrop to the cover is a dark, grainy purple colored wall. The title is quite prominent in a distressed spikey serif font. The author's name, Horace Walpole, appears at the bottom of the cover. A quote, Sparked the vogue for gothic romance in English literature, by the Observer newspaper appears at the top of the cover.

The brief: The Castle of Otranto

The brief from Hesperus Press was to create a cover that would capture the gothic mood of the story. The client suggested looking at old castles, ruined towers and suits of armour.

The design: The Castle of Otranto

In the first instance, I provided the client with some different options for the cover – showing gothic architectural elements, stone gargoyles, ornamental door knockers, antique locks, etc. I also tried some versions that used details from medieval armour and helmets, which is something that is featured in the plot of the story. The client liked the image of the candlestick and the melted candles. It was quite a simple image but it suited the source material – dark and gothic.

I created some extra background on the image, to allow the crop to work with the text. For the book title I presented the client with some different approaches for the typeface – including Old English and script-style typefaces. In the end, to keep it legible, I chose to use a more classic serif typeface. To make the title appear more aged I created a distressed effect to the text.