This brilliant optical illusion book cover is fooling everyone

Penguin book cover with an optical illusion that looks like a stack of books
(Image credit: Future)

We all know you should never judge a book by its cover... but... well, actually we do. Just like with wine and craft ale, a good book cover can sometimes make the sale, and this is a clear example.

The internet is going wild for a cover design that's something of an illusion that might convince someone you bought a dozen copies of the book. We're not sure it quite counts as one of the best optical illusions, but it's certainly very clever.

The book in question is Penguin's publication of the German philosopher Walter Benjamin's 1935 essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. The cover of the book depicts its spine many times over, so that when viewed from the front, the book looks like a stack of several copies. 

u/InfraredSpectroscopy (opens in new tab) shared a photo of the book in Reddit's r/DesignPorn (opens in new tab) community, and it went down a storm. "Let's all own up, how long did it take us to realise this wasn't a stack of copies?" one person asked. "Quite a few prods to the phone screen trying to swipe to the next pic that would show the covers of this stack of books… talk about unconscious optics," another person said. "I thought it was a single spine and the book was just massive," one person said.

We have a copy in the Creative Bloq office, and can confirm that the cover is indeed very clever. Some have noted that the bad crop on the last spine in the row gives the game away. We assume this was intentional, reflecting Benjamin's argument about art's value being reduced the use of machines that have little interest in beauty. While machines themselves have evolved enormously since Benjamin wrote his essay, his concerns remain very relevant today, especially in the wake of the current controversy around AI in art. The book is available – still with that sublime cover – at Amazon (opens in new tab).

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Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.