Wednesday, December 1, 2010

1830 Dust Jacket

In April 2009, one of the earliest known dust jackets was found at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library. Alexandra Cardia, writing for Cabinet in the Fall of 2009 explains the find: "Hidden in an assortment of book-trade ephemera purchased in the 1890s and never fully catalogued, the worn and faded piece of paper imprinted with black ink had long been separated from the original book, an 1830 gift book entitled Friendship’s Offering. Gift books, or literary annuals were richly decorated volumes, bound in silk, leather, or glazed paper, and designed to be given away, particularly around the Christmas and New Year holidays. Dust jackets ensured that the gift reached its recipient in perfect condition."

Most jackets of this era were probably designed to be just protective wrappers that were soon discarded. The creases of this paper wrapper where it had been folded around the book, as well as remnants of wax where it had been sealed, are still visible. There are other jackets of this era which have survived, but this is the oldest one on record and they are all worth far more than the books they covered. I just wonder if discoveries of this kind are occurring more frequently because libraries are now digitizing their collections and finally beginning to examine the ephemera that has been lying dormant in their archives for so long. Below is another 19th C wrapper and the case-bound annual it contained. The owner must have converted the wrapper to a flap-style jacket after opening it. (UCLA Special Collections)

Via Early Dust Jackets

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