The cover history of Albert Camus’ The Plague

As sales of the classic novel soar, we look at the visual heritage of The Plague, and the recurring symbols that have been used to sell the book

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, people have been turning to literature to find some comfort – and Camus’ 73-year-old novel The Plague is one of the titles that’s seen sales soar.

Its story of the Algerian town of Oran experiencing an outbreak of bubonic plague and the population’s subsequent quarantine, is resonating for obvious reasons. Penguin reported in March that it was hurrying through a reprint, after sales in February were up 150% in comparison with 2019. Other countries have also seen the book leap into bestseller lists.

To trace the visual history of the novel, CR spoke with Dylan Mulvaney, Head of Design at New York creative agency Gretel, who’s been exploring some of the recurring symbols used by book cover designers over the last 70 years.