[ModLib] Brief History of the Dust Jacket

Graham, Charles charles.graham at dominican.edu
Mon Jun 27 15:13:07 EDT 2011

Oh, yes, I find these very interesting.  Thank you for sharing.

Chuck Graham
Mail Services Coordinator
Dominican University of California

On Sun, Jun 26, 2011 at 2:33 PM, Roger Lathbury <lathbury at gmu.edu> wrote:

> Is any of this of interest?
> Dust jackets were first put on books as a regular matter around the turn of
> the 19th into the 20th century. Before then, book cover were illustrated or
> ornamented, but there were no jackets.
> Indeed, up until the end of the 18th century one bought the loose
> signatures and had books bound at one's bindery--using simple cloth if one
> was of modest means, leather if richer, or with one's coat of arms if one
> had a title and the money.
> Around the turn into the 20th century, jackets were plain. They printed the
> title of the book and the author's name, and publisher's name. On occasion
> other books by the same author might be listed or even advertising. Many of
> these plain jackets have not survived. They were meant only to protect the
> binding and, not being of much intrinsic interest or beauty, were tossed.
> It wasn't until after World War I that illustrated jackets began in a
> serious way--when jackets were used to market books. Cf. Fitzgerald's
> interest in the jackets of his books to the indifference of Dreiser, Edith
> Wharton, and others on the same subject. Maxwell Perkins, Fitzgerald'e
> editor, used to immediately throw away the jacket before putting the book on
> his shelves. Even then the evolution to the illustrated jacket was gradual.
> However, it was not long before the importance of the jacket to marketing
> was evident. At some point jackets became more important than bindings,
> which tended to become cheaper and cheaper. You can see this trend in the
> plain jackets of the first Modern Library Books to the later ones with the
> balloon cloth and the the 1940's versions. Whatever one may think of the
> leatherette bindings (which have lasted but are kind of mucky now after 90
> years--at least my copy of _A Hazard of New Fortunes_ is), they were meant
> to imitate the binding style that a discriminating person would select on
> his own and to add class to his library. They were meant to give distinction
> to an inexpensive reprint series.
> Libraries often discarded jackets.Some publishers would supply books to
> libraries without dust wrappers. It was cheaper. Sometimes they would design
> "Library Bindings," which might mean smythe-sewn bindings in which the text
> block was also glued to the interior of the spine, as in very old books
> (pages were attached to the spines on very early books--thus those ridges on
> old bindings are for where threads would be). Or "library binding" signified
> a sewn binding, sometimes side stitched, when the regular edition was
> perfect bound. The difference in cost between a sewn binding and the perfect
> bound one could be nullified by not providing a jacket.
> The endpapers in the buckram Modern Library bindings I have are not
> continuous. One can see the white extra heavy "super" that holds the text
> block to the boards. This is also another definition of "library binding."
> The grey of the endpapers is sturdier than the paper on which printed runner
> device is found.
> I don't know whether Modern Library buckrams had jackets. The Collected
> Poems of Shelley that I own does not, nor does one other (whose title
> escapes me at the moment). I think I found these books at yard sales or
> library sales. Don't remember.
> Cheers.
> Roger Lathbury
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