Suzanne Dean Goes Back in Time to Create the Cover for The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock

Suzanne Dean Goes Back in Time to Create the Cover for The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock

Suzanne Dean is the Creative Director at Vintage Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House UK. Here Dean describes her process for developing the book cover for The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, in her own words.

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is a spellbinding story of curiosity and obsession. Set in 1785, Jonah Hancock, a merchant, sells his ship for a mermaid.

My first job was to collect research on typography and fonts, printed matter, fashion and fabrics - all of which was pasted to the wall of my office. The title and author font was developed by referencing eighteenth-century lettering. Here are the first sketches by the lettering artist, and the finished title.

I particularly like the way the ‘and’ has been rendered.


We had always wanted to present a whole design package with this title. The novel was set in Caslon, a popular font in the mid-1700s. The title page was designed to echo the title page of Clarissa. I decided to create an eighteenth-century Harvill Secker logo for the cover. The bird was silhouetted from an engraving found in the book Old English Cuts and Illustrations.


I was keen to incorporate an eighteenth-century silk into the cover design that would also hint at the narrative. The pale blue pattern suggested waves to me. I came across this silk on a research trip to the Eighteenth Century Galleries at the V&A. The original silk pattern was designed by Anna Maria Garthwaite, who was the most celebrated textile designer of the eighteenth century. The background of the cover was created by layering two eighteenth-century silks.


I then integrated a mermaid’s tail into this repeated pattern. The tail was created from the author’s research on mermaids, collected while she was writing the novel. The shells reference the fashionable eighteenth-century shell grottoes that feature in the novel. They neatly appear within the text design too.


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Design Editor, Painter, Designer, Lifelong bibliophile.