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How The Book Got It’s Jacket

“How the book got it’s jacket” sounds like a good title from Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories yet it is an interesting question, when did books acquire their dust wrappers?

Hans Andersen Fairy Tales and Legends illus by Rex Whistler

Before the 1820’s the text of a book was often bound in a commissioned binding of the owners choice. If a cover was needed to protect a book it was a plain paper wrapper, known as a “bastard title” that was quickly discarded once the book was purchased. An early forerunner version of a book protector was a slip case or sheath which were used for the covering of ornate gift publications or special books. From 1820 these covers progressed to a more paper like version and occasionally included the name of the book title on the cover. The golden age of illustration ensured that ornate and beautiful books were designed which required no decorative covers so any dust jackets for these books were frequently removed to enable the book to be displayed. As any dust jacket collector of 19th and 20th century dust jackets knows a dust jacket from this period is a rare item indeed.

Over time techniques of printing and marketing advanced allowing publishers to make book covers more colourful and appealing – although at the time continued scrapping of  lovely jackets as “wrapping paper” continued. Many books were issued with a plain glassine dust jacket which was instantly dismissed on opening but are now sought after items.

A Christmas Carol dust jacket Arthur Rackham

By the 1920’s dust jackets were becoming familiar. The use of the flap on a jacket became refined providing protection of the book and allowing the owner to read the book too. An added bonus for the publisher was that there was space for promotional information about the author and the book. As the ornately designed book waned the dust jacket became the focus of attraction. The artistic and commercial developments in the art world encouraged more designers to move into corporate employment. The golden Age illustrators even moved into the area of dust jacket design as in the 1925 edition of A Christmas Carol with Arthur Rackham designed dust wrapper. Book designs became objects of art themselves.

World War II interrupted the development of the jackets for a while as shortages of paper restricted publication. Yet since then the dust jacket has gained importance in the field of book collecting. As every book collector will know, a good quality first editionjacket can add considerable value to any book. The value and interest can very often now be in the illustration and design of the dust jacket. Unusual information about an author or the book on the dust jacket can now make it a rare and sought after object.

The Ring by Richard Chopping

Moonraker by Ian Fleming 1st Edition

Author designed jackets such as Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, 1930, or Moonraker by Ian Fleming,  are unusual items. Illustrators who then write a book and illustrate their dust jackets are interesting too as in The Ring by Richard Chopping (illustrator to many of Ian Fleming, James Bond novels).

It can probably be assumed that if How the book got it’s jacket was indeed a Kipling publication it would no doubt have had no jacket on – or maybe it might be covered in the popular glassine covers of the time – and would indeed now be a collectors item!

 

 

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The Gift of Music or Books

The Gift of Music or Books

Recently someone asked me what I wanted for my birthday gift– maybe a CD I replied and then realised I hadn’t listen to music for quite a while. Music had always been really important to me. I’d often got lost in it. It could make me happy, moved – sad even, energetic or help me get to sleep. Quite a powerful mix of spells. But without particularly noticing, I’d almost stopped listening altogether. What had happened? Had my life changed? Or shock horror, had I changed?

Then I came across an article about the latest high definition portable music players and how they play music files that aren’t compressed.

kindleI’ve always appreciated quality in all things whether I can afford them or not. Quality sound, with those high tones and deep bases we used to hear on vinyl, had disappeared from my life. It wasn’t me – it was the awful low quality music on my phone. Those compressed digital files that conveniently fit hundreds of songs onto my tiny little device at the expense of sound quality, were to blame. I’d fallen out of love with music because it no longer gave me the pleasure it once did. I just hadn’t realised it.

Reading book

I bought myself a new, albeit rather expensive portable devise and now can’t download music (high definition music) onto it quickly enough. It’s wonderful to have my ears opened again, as though they’d been blocked with wax for a decade!

There is an obvious and relevant comparison with books and e-books. Yes, e-books are convenient for say holidays but beyond that, are they really a substitute for the real thing? I’m not talking about rare and antique first editions here but any modern or classic book. For instance, sometimes I have need to flip back to check a specific detail from earlier in a book. I can generally find it because I know roughly where to look, and can even remember whether it was on a right or left hand page. I would not even try this on an e-book.

Set of A.A. Milne Pooh Books first editionsAdd to the mix the tactile experience, the cover design, the feel, the experience of reading a physical book and you’re starting to scratch at the surface of the comparison. You could even say an open book is an open expression of one’s character just as music can reflect the literature of the heart. Heinrich Heine says, “Where words leave off, music begins.” A shelf of books or music says something about a person. Not everyone would agree I’m sure but I wouldn’t mind betting there are a lot of nodding heads out there.

Getting transported by being lost in a book or music is a real gift. This Christmas, don’t forget to think about either an expensive portable music devise (costly!) or a vastly cheaper option of a book as a present. A lovely first edition book might be that special something that’s totally unique and unusual.