Monday, February 26, 2007

Dustjackets and Type

For a number of reasons recently I have been thinking about typography on book jackets. Any book collector will be able to tell you that the reason it is difficult to find jacketed books before a certain date is that up to a point they were regarded as entirely disposable, something to keep the book safe and clean on the shelf or in the post, to be torn off like wrapping paper before settling down to read, not really a part of the book itself. Of course, all that has changed now.

Instead of grabbing scans and photos from across the internet to play with I have simply hooked a few examples off my own shelves to natter on about how wonderful some of these jackets which rely heavily or entirely on text are.

I was going to simply pull down some Gollancz yellow jackets and some Faber and Faber but, of course, once I actually started scanning the shelves I found others I wanter to highlight. In this context in particular I was struck by these three American editions of Robert Hugh Benson's historical novels published by P J Kennedy & Sons out of New York in 1912-15. I love these covers. There's nothing wondeful about them in design terms I suppose but they are, first of all very scarce in any condition, let alone in the browned but intact condition I found these in, and second of all are perfect examples of the cover as wrapping paper. The title and author is there like a headline above a newspaper article, which is made up of what we would now call the 'blurb' for the book. I love the way that simply by appropriating this newspaper style, the publisher/designer has reinforced the fact that these are disposable items, and in the process created something of real interest.

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