The Little Prince’s most famous cover (and lots of rare alternatives)

The Little Prince’s most famous cover (and lots of rare alternatives)

Giovanni Blandino Published on 3/22/2024

In 1943, at the height of the Second World War, a small book appeared in New York that looked like a children’s story, with a cover featuring a blond-haired child on a strange flower-topped asteroid floating in outer space. It was this poetic image that introduced The Little Prince, one of the most successful stories ever written, to the world.

The Little Prince is one of the biggest-selling books of all time, with over 200 million copies sold and translations in 190 different languages, and over time it has proven to be much more than just a children’s tale.

Today we’d like to recount the book’s epic journey. It was written and illustrated by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a commercial pilot who died in the skies over southern France a year after his miniature masterpiece was released, and over the past 80 years it has become a publishing icon, travelling to remote countries and appearing with many astonishing covers.

Fasten your seat belts and prepare for take-off!

The Little Prince’s first, hugely popular cover

If you’re looking for a cover that perfectly summed up the tone of the book from the very first edition, the one used for The Little Prince takes some beating. The pale watercolour painted by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry himself that appeared on the cover of the first edition in 1943 depicts the lead character standing on his planet, asteroid B-612, in the middle of space.

The cover of the first edition of The Little Prince (1943). Image:

It is surely the perfect depiction of this poetic modern fairytale?

We have two curious facts about the first edition of The Little Prince for you. Firstly, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was one of those rare authors who illustrated their own books, including the cover (another example of this, as we’ve seen, was J.R.R. Tolkein and The Lord of the Rings). And secondly, did you know that the French edition of The Little Prince was not the first to be published, despite the author being French and not speaking much English? The book first came out in the USA, published by the New York-based publishers Reynal & Hitchcock in 1943. The author had sought refuge from Nazi-occupied France on Long Island in 1940.[1] 

The Little Prince with black skin

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry‘s illustrations are an intrinsic part of his book, which is why, despite the numerous editions and translations published since 1943, few publishers have moved away from the first, iconic cover.

The cover of the 2003 Malian edition of The Little Prince, where the lead character has black skin. Image:

However, there are some interesting exceptions, sometimes with just one single detail changed. One example of this is the cover of an edition of The Little Prince released by a publisher in Mali, Editions Jamana from Bamako, where the Little Prince was given a different colour skinblack – while his hair remained blond. The other iconic elements of the cover stayed the same – the asteroid-planet B-612, the flowers and the star-speckled space, albeit re-drawn in an appealing new style.

The result is undoubtedly a very successful cover: a rare little gem.

The cover with a dog instead of a fox

Another example of a small detail being enough to refresh the cover is a 2022 Costa Rican adaptation, published by Editorial 192.

The ‘zaguate’ cover of The Little Prince, Costa Rica, 2022. Image:

Here, on the cover – and in the rest of the story – the fox tamed by the Little Prince becomes a stray dog, or zaguate in the local language, an animal that is common across Costa Rica and so part of children and adults’ everyday lives.

Coralie Bickford-Smith’s patterned fabric cover

One cover of The Little Prince that is nothing like the original is the version created by leading cover designer Coralie Bickford-Smith for Penguin.

The fabric cover designed by award-winning cover designer Coralie Bickford-Smith. Source:

The cover is part of a very special cloth-bound series celebrating 85 literary classics, including Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s modern-day fairytale. When creating the new cover, the British illustrator and designer paid homage to the original illustration by incorporating some of its very modern elements.

The stars and planets from the original became a beautiful contemporary pattern, blue on a yellow background.

Two rarities: the Bosnian and Ethiopian editions

The Bosnian cover of The Little Prince, published by Svjetlost, Sarajevo in 1958. Image: / Fondation JMP pour LPP

Another two covers that successfully reinvented the original cover while retaining its key elements came from two distant locations: the Bosnian edition, published in Sarajevo in 1958, and the edition in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, published in 1978.

The cover with the quotation from the existentialist philosopher

Despite its appearance, The Little Prince can’t really be called a children’s book. Its classification caused it a few problems when it was first released: the first American edition was not a runaway success in part because it was immediately labelled as being aimed at children.

The cover of the 1950s German edition of The Little Prince. Image:

To get around this issue, in 1950 the German publishing house Karl Rauch decided to print the opinion of renowned existentialist philosopher Martin Heidegger on the cover, warning ‘This is not a children’s book‘ followed by ‘this is the message of a great poet who frees us from our earthly loneliness and takes us a step closer to solving the world’s great mysteries.’

You don’t get much clearer than that!

The cover of the bilingual Siberian edition

Just like its author’s biplane, The Little Prince has also reached some of the most remote parts of the planet. One example is this rare bilingual edition, in Russian and Even, a Tungus language spoken in Siberia, specifically in the very isolated region of Sakha.

The cover of the bilingual Russian/Even edition of The Little Prince. Image:

Even is only spoken by just over 5,000 people, so it is amazing that this almost impossible to find edition of The Little Prince, published in 2013 by Dikiy Sever, made it into print at all! The cover is even (pun not intended) more astonishing: it is embellished with illustrations that reflect the culture and aesthetics of the people who live in this region in the far east of Russia. The cover and inside illustrations were drawn by Russian artist Vyacheslav Fentyajev.

The symbol edition, accessible to all children

We’ll finish with a beautiful version of Saint-Exupéry’s masterpiece: an adaptation, published in 2017 by the Italian publisher Erickson, that rewrites The Little Prince in Widgit symbols (WLS).

The adaptation in Widgit symbols, suitable for all children, including those with autism or communication disorders. Image:

WLS is a language designed to be readable by those on the autism spectrum or with communication disorders, making The Little Prince an even more universal masterpiece.

Which is your favourite The Little Prince cover? Are there any others – rare, unusual or simply beautiful – you’d like to share with us?