Generally, once an author has been dead for over 70 years, his or her work becomes public domain. You might think about it like a sitcom getting syndication. When a book becomes public domain, it may be sold by any publishing house in need of some extra cash. This is why, for example, you can find a copy of the Great Gatsby from Penguin, Random House, and Harper Collins, even though it was originally published through Scribner.
This has lead to an enormous amount of creative freedom cover-wise. We've had more than a few mishaps.
I mean, what the hell even is that? This looks like a "Big Eyes" painting if it got left in the sun for too long.
Of all the sins I've witnessed in the name of literacy, I never thought I'd stumble upon something so laughably God-awful, so lazily slapped together as this:
If you're thinking, "something's off here," you're not alone. Say hello to "Wordsworth Classics", a division of a minor British publishing house whose main goal seems to be getting the original authors to roll over in their graves (70+ years on). I've compiled the worst of their collection for your viewing (dis)pleasure.
This is bad. I mean, I don't know what they were going for here, but thank God for that conveniently placed smoke.
I have a hard time believing Tom's Disney channel haircut was all too common back in the 1800s.
Man. 300 looks worse than I remember.
Everything about this is bad. The borderline copyright infringement Cheshire Cat, Alice's "Victorian" getup, not to mention the Mad Hatter, who is clearly the first man in Wonderland to receive a face transplant via photoshop.
Ah, yes. Moby Dick. Origin of the proverbial "White Whale", who apparently, was not actually white.
Why does "Dorian Gray" look like he's about to lecture me on how to brew the perfect IPA?
Robinson Cru-NO! This looks more like a bad porno than classic english lit...
Little known fact: when this book cover was sent into the publishers, Notre Dame spontaneously burst into flames.
This is not Dracula. Clearly, this is a photo of Oscar Wilde, who, after smoking an enormous quantity of marijuana at a Halloween party, believes that he is Dracula.
Even Harlequin Romance wouldn't sink to this level. Look how they're leaning against the fence! Is that even physically possible?