A Classic Cover?

Pirate CityThe Pirate City

Submitter: For your consideration, a 2008 edition of The Pirate City by Robert Michael Ballantyne that we found lurking in the YA collection of a public library.  Originally published in 1874, this book for “boys” covers events leading to Lord Exmouth’s expedition in Algiers in 1816. At this time, Algerian pirates were raiding American and European ships, enslaving nearly a million white captives. However, my nomination of this book has nothing to do with the dense 19th-century prose with Eurocentric and Christian overtones, but lies with the cover of this edition. The cover depicts some sort of a clone army, with machine guns and helmets. And with the strange pinkish sky, this looks like the book is set on another planet.  Could the helmets be oxygen masks? Does it take place on Mars? In any event, the cover certainly does not depict Algerian pirates or British soldiers in the early 1800s.  Despite this bait-and-switch cover art, teens stayed away, leading to its withdrawal for lack of circulation. Now it is off to the Friends of the Library book sale–wonder if there will be any takers?

Holly: This is a very strange choice of covers for this book. The content also sounds kind of dense for a YA collection, but that’s another matter. At first glance, I assumed it was a science fiction novel – and the teens probably did too.


  1. This looks like a Tutis Digital POD (print on demand) title. Basically they take public domain books, slap on (usually) completely irrelevant cover images, and print them off. In most cases, the cover art is under copyright and Tutis is essentially stealing intellectual property. (I seem to recall reading that Tutis may have gone out of business, probably because of objections from the real copyright owners.)

    Canadians might find the following examples of Tutis titles amusing:


  2. Hilariously, some reverse image searching reveals that to be the back cover of a 1993 reprint of Dorsai! by Gordon R. Dickson. It’s a pretty important work of classic military sci fi, but still has nothing to do with 19th century Algiers.

  3. That is most certainly a Tutis Classics cover. As near as I’ve been able to tell, the print on demand publisher gave up the ghost in 2009. Seven years later, I still think of it as the most bizarre of a bizarre lot; Tutis produced remarkable and surreal covers. My very favourite is the one cobbled together for Romany of the Snows by late Victorian/Edwardian bestselling author Sir Gilbert Parker. The inquisitive will not be disappointed:


Comments are closed.