Comparing Covers – Constitution in 2020 and Restoring the Lost Constitution

Update: I just saw the link from Professor Barnett at the Volokh Conspiracy so I reposted this post to the top of the blog! Thanks for the link! I launched this blog less than 48 hours ago. Please help spread the word about my fledgling blog; add me to your RSS Feed, follow me on Twitter, check me out on Facebook, and peruse my published articles on SSRN. Thanks!

Update Again: Just saw the link from one of my favorite blogs, the Faculty Lounge. In response, the red cover is offset by the jingoistic American flag, so I didn’t think that comment warranted my attention! And technically, shouldn’t the cover include the American flag in 2020, with stars for all 57 states! But see this comment

I was just glancing at my bookshelf, and I noticed an interesting contrast between the cover of Randy Barnett’s Restoring the Lost Constitution, The Presumption of Liberty and The Constitution in 2020 by Jack Balkin and Reva Siegel.

Look at these two covers, and what do you notice?

Restoring the Lost Constitution

Restoring the Lost Constitution

Constitution in 2020

Constitution in 2020

Give up? Look at the Constitution on each cover. In Barnett’s book, the text of the Constitution is prominent, and there are chunks of the Great Charter cut out, to represent how the Supreme Court has (mis)treated the document under glass in the National Archives. On the cover of the Constitution in 2020, much like the contents therein, the actual text of the Constitution is a faded afterthought. If you squint closely, behind the American flag (I suppose that relates to the Constitution), and the names of the 23 contributors, in a hard-to-read black text on a red background, is the text of the Constitution.

Now, I am not implying that this stylistic choice was an intentional slight against the Constitution. Nor do I even think this thought occurred to anyone involved in the publication. Rather, this is simply one of my absurd observations that has little significance, but finds refuge in this jurisprudence of blog. But, in my humble opinion, the covers of these two texts on the Constitution serve as lodestars for the content inside.

POLL. So let’s figure it out. Which cover do you prefer?

24 Responses to “Comparing Covers – Constitution in 2020 and Restoring the Lost Constitution”

  1. JB Says:

    “What if courts were run by computers? But, who programs the computer?”

    Looking forward to reading this subject in your most interesting blog.


  2. The Volokh Conspiracy » Blog Archive » Two Images of the Constitution Says:

    […] his new blog, Josh Blackman compares the covers of two books on the Constitution. Categories: Constitutional […]

  3. Poll: Which is a better C2020 Souvenir? Signed Book or Signed Constitution? « Josh Blackman's Blog Says:

    […] 2020. And considering how the authors of the Constitution of 2020 treated the Constitution on their cover, I think it would be appropriate to get their John Hancocks right on […]

  4. egd Says:

    Actually, I didn’t think you were looking at the prominence of the document, I thought the issue was something very different.

    The first cover appears to use an image of the Constitution, while the second appears to be a replica.

    In case it’s too subtle, the Constitution was written on four pages in single-column format. Not on one page in two-column format.

    The replica version makes a big deal over the preamble and signatures, while minimizing the actual content of the Constitution. Of course, if you’re looking for something to frame and put up in your office, the replica is much easier to display, and has a better appearance.

    But it’s not the real thing.

    • Will Says:

      Egd: Thanks for the update. I’d always thought the original Constitution was a one-pager. So what is this replica version anyway?

  5. bearing Says:

    If the covers are a sort of preview of what’s inside, I’d say they’re functioning correctly. It’s an interesting point and a good pivot point for discussing the differences between the books — the sort of thing you might use to begin or end a book review — but it’s hard to see this as a criticism of the cover design in either case.

  6. Josh Blackman Says:

    Good point egd. Style before substance?

  7. AnonymousLawyer Says:

    I thought that you were going to say that the conservative (red state) book has a bluish cover, while the liberal (blue state) book has a red cover.

  8. Josh Blackman Says:

    @bearing. Agreed. I have a friend writing a book review of the Constitution in 2020 for a JLPP. I will drop him a note 🙂

  9. Josh Blackman Says:

    @AnonymousLawyer. Interesting point, but I always rejected Tim Russert’s entire Red State/Blue State dichotomy. It oversimplifies things, and really leaves Libertarians out in the cold. Purple state maybe? See Ilya Shapiro’s interesting blog

    • wlpeak Says:

      The libertarians could be green thus, red, green, & blue states. Combines to create actual colors.

  10. JR Says:

    I thought you’d realized that the cutouts in Prof. Barnett’s book actually form an ancient Masonic character, thus showing that only he recognizes the foundations of our nation are freemasonry and that the All-Seeing Eye is a critical component of the legislative branch.

    …but perhaps I’ve said too much.

  11. Josh Blackman Says:

    @JR. If you hold a copy of Professor Barnett’s book up to the sun 15 paces due west of the Jefferson Memorial at noon on July 4, it will reveal a map to find the Constitution in Exile. Shhh… See also The Interactive Dan Brown Sequel Generator H/T Alex F.

  12. Orin Kerr Says:


    I suppose if your views were on the other side, you would say that the Barnett cover focuses on just a very small part of the Constitution — it has only the preamble and the first few lines of Article I — while the Constitution in 2020 cover has the entire original Constitution on it.

  13. Josh Blackman Says:

    @Orin. Glad to have you as a visitor at my blog!

    From Randy’s perspective, if he did not reproduce the remainder of the Constitution, mainly Article 1, Section 8 and the Commerce Clause, the Supreme Court would not be able to misinterpret it. So perhaps this was a positive move.

  14. Kat Says:

    @Prof. Kerr:

    To my mind I’d rather have a few brief words in stark perspective clearly outlining the Constitution’s commitment to liberty than an entire blurry document that just obscures the entire point, which again is to preserve the “sea of liberty.”

  15. Orin Kerr Says:


    Personally, I would rather not read a Constitution by a book cover.

    • Kat Says:

      Touche. Just defending the analogy!

      • Josh Blackman Says:

        I love when everyone gets along!

  16. Steve Says:

    I don’t recall which Con Law casebook we used when I was in law school, but I always found it telling that Appendix A listed the Justices of the Supreme Court, and the text of the Constitution itself was relegated to Appendix B.

    • Josh Blackman Says:

      @Steve. Ed Meese made that same point in his famous 1986 “Original Intent” speech. I had the Rotunda and the Kmiec text. I seem to recall that the Constitution was printed as a preface, but I may be wrong.

  17. Sigivald Says:

    From a purely design/aesthetic standpoint, the Barnett cover is horrible.

    Not only is it using a god damn drop shadow, but the cutouts don’t even match the format of the text (they’re too high for one line, and aren’t aligned with the lines).

    The composition feels unbalanced, and I’m deeply dubious about an angled photograph (or photorealistic depiction) under the text. The simulated depth is displeasing.

    (I would have gone for a flat but maybe 80% realistic depiction of the Constitution with parts blackened out; ideally such that it’d actually map to the content. Desaturate it until it’s not busy, and go.)

    That said, I’m sure I’d prefer to read Barnett’s book, but the cover? It’s a disaster.

  18. Chris Says:

    I like the Balkin cover better, for many of the reasons sigivald notes. I also simply prefer the stronger colors. I’ll probably read both.

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