Thursday, November 7, 2013

Jacket with Tales

From: Oak Knoll

"Many novices to book collecting don’t get dust jackets. How can a single piece of paper make the difference between a $4000 book and a $75,000 book? How can certain first editions suddenly lose all their collectible value if they’re missing the paper they were wrapped in? Collectors are weird!
     I’m going to attempt to defend the quirk that says a piece of paper around the book matters. My defense: a lesson in the history of printing.
     Dust jackets are seen as a trait of 20th-century books. But the earliest dust jackets appeared surprisingly early in the 19th century; the oldest known jacket dates from 1830. But we don’t associate dust jackets with the 19th century. This is for good reason: the early stages of dust jacket evolution were humble, and as such, the jackets were rarely saved.
     Dust jackets were first used for books with beautiful, elaborate, expensive bindings. Seem counterintuitive? Why cover up a gorgeous binding? So dust jackets started not as part of the books, but as a means of protecting the book. Not too hard to understand, since jackets still function as protection to their books today. The difference is that today we don’t throw away the dust jacket after we’ve gotten the book safely home. Unlike in the 19th century, today we see dust jackets as part of the book.
     This change in perspective occurred for largely commercial reasons. Booksellers found it useful for the title of the book to be printed on the protective shipping wrapper to help identify the book underneath. It was only a matter of time before the commercial capabilities were tapped."
Aldine by Rebecca Romney
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