The history of Learning Perl covers

tags: learning-perl 

Learning Perl has gone through eight editions (and there’s unlikely to be another one in its current form). From it’s initial days as the “Pink Llama” to the latest “bright” cover, and I go through each of them to see how they have evolved.

If you have better images for any of these covers, please send them to me.

1993 - First Edition - the “Pink Llama”

The first edition came out in 1993—a couple years before the first public release of Perl 5. This was back when it was O’Reilly & Associates and “nutshell” books. The “Perl” category hadn’t branched off yet, so perl is just another Unix tool. The “Learning” is slightly less-tall than the “Perl”

Edition: First
Released: November 1993
Pages: 274
Perl Version: 4
Authors: Randal L. Schwartz

1997 - Second Edition - Perl 5

The second edition came out in 1997, and this one covers Perl 5. Now the cover is the “Perl blue”, but it’s still part of the “Unix Programming” category. Randal was a bit busy during this period, so Tom Christiansen, the author of much of the original Perl docs, steps in to help.

At the beginner level, there was not much of a difference in the scope. A short-lived chapter on CGI programming snuck in because this was the hot topic of the time. The fancy new Perl 5 features would be part of a separate book, Learning Perl References, Objects, and Modules, which later turned into Intermediate Perl.

The second edition also had a version specialized by Eric Olson for Windows NT. Randal was quite fond of saying that he didn’t know what was different in this version since he wrote the parts that were the same. Instead of the llama, there’s a gecko.

Edition: Second
Released: July 1997
Pages: 300
Perl Version: 5
Authors: Randal L. Schwartz & Tom Christiansen

Edition: First (for this title)
Released: August 1997
Pages: 312
Perl Version: 5
Authors: Randal L. Schwartz & Tom Christiansen

2001 - Third Edition - Complete Rewrite

The third edition, released in 2001, was almost a complete rewrite from Tom Phoenix. On the cover, the “Unix Programming” is replaced with a paraphrase of Larry Wall’s quip “Making Easy Things Easy & Hard Things Possible”.

Edition: Third
Released: July 2001
Pages: 330
Perl Version: 5
Authors: Randal L. Schwartz & Tom Phoenix

2001 - Fourth Edition - Perl v5.8

The fourth edition, in 2005, is the first where my name appears on the cover. It’s also the first cover to show a particular Perl version in the stripe in the upper right. Perl v5.8 seems so long ago, mostly because it was so long ago.

Edition: Fourth
Released: July 2005
Pages: 312
Perl Version: 5.8
Authors: Randal L. Schwartz, Tom Phoenix & brian d foy

2008,2011 - Fifth and Sixth Editions - Perls v5.10, v5.14

The fifth edition, in 2008, looks the same of the previous edition, but the Perl version in the stripe is now v5.10. The quip at the top is now wrapped because it had bumped up too hard against the stripe. The sixth edition, in 2011, looks the same but for v5.14 and the position of my name.

Edition: Fifth
Released: July 2008
Pages: 348
Perl Version: 5.10
Authors: Randal L. Schwartz, Tom Phoenix & brian d foy

Edition: Sixth
Released: July 2011
Pages: 390
Perl Version: 5.14
Authors: Randal L. Schwartz, brian d foy & Tom Phoenix

2016 - Seventh Edition - Big Ugly

The seventh edition’s cover, for 2016, gets a big redesign to cave to the pressures of online bookstores. The title font had been stable for years, but it didn’t look good as a thumbnail on the web. Now the font is a disgusting anorexic non-monospaced typewriter font. The slug shows up in blue box under the title, and now it all uppercase. This is the first time since the first edition that “Learning” is less tall than “Perl”.

The Perl version has disappeared from the stripe, but that’s not the only problem there. The blue bar at the top of the cover is not thicker so the stripe intersects it such that there’s only a triangle on the right. The stripe barely clips the big blue box in the sort of way that Microsoft Word likes to mess up your layouts. If we had put the Perl version in there, this would not have looked so bad.

I hate this cover, mentioned that I hated it, but all of O’Reilly Media was going this way. Sometimes life is like that.

Edition: Seventh
Released: October 2016
Pages: 394
Perl Version: 5.24
Authors: Randal L. Schwartz, brian d foy & Tom Phoenix

2021 Eighth Edition - In Living Color

The eighth edition, from 2021, is another major cover redesign across all O’Reilly books. The blue box is gone; the “Perl blue” is completely gone. The llama is the same but has been colorized and given a shadow; the stripe gets a shadow too. The font is a bold version of some non-serif, too-thin lowercase “r” typeface. The slug has returned to mixed case. It’s not as ugly as the previous cover, but it covers up to v5.34, so it’s got that going for it.

Edition: Eighth
Released: August 2021
Pages: 398
Perl Version: 5.34
Authors: Randal L. Schwartz, brian d foy & Tom Phoenix