Approaching the End of Decorated Publishers Bindings

Plain paper dust jackets were often used in the 19th century. They were a means of protecting the book while traveling, often by horse drawn carriage, or while it was on the bookseller’s shelf, waiting for a buyer. The jacket was considered ephemeral–intended to be discarded, which is why they are so scarce today.

Decorated book covers were slowly phased out in the years leading up to World War I, and by the end of the War  were the exception. This decision was made by publishers, based entirely on the high cost of manufacturing: i.e. the designer’s fee and the substantial expense of embossing, gilt, and color stamping. It was simply much less expensive to print a colorful design on a paper jacket and publish the book in a plainer cloth. An added bonus was that advertising for new titles could be printed on both the inside and outside of the jacket.

This case represents the transition years of 1920-1926, when many publishers issued books in both a decorated binding and a dust jacket. There are five types of jackets shown:

The Love of Azalea –  A fragile, tissue-like, glassine jacket. Truly ephemeral. Few survive intact.

Modern Priscilla and Farm BalladsPrinted paper jackets with no resemblance to the book.

The Golden Key – The jacket replicates the design and color of the cover.

Unknown Switzerland – A rare, reinforced linen jacket, in the same color as the book cloth, and featuring the same gilt sunflower spine, but with an undecorated front jacket cover.


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