Book-Jackets: Their History, Forms, and Use
by G. Thomas Tanselle
Size: 9.25″ x 6″
Pages: 324 pp. (includes 16 color and 8 black and white illustrations and indexes)
This illustrated book is intended as a compact introduction to the historical study of book-jackets (or dust-jackets), which–though removable from the books they cover–are essential parts of those books as published. It is a history both of publishers’ detachable book coverings (primarily British and American) and of the attention they have received from scholars, dealers, collectors, and librarians. It also surveys their use by publishers (as protective devices and advertising media) and their usefulness to scholars of literature, art, and book history (as sources for biography, bibliography, cultural analysis, and the development of graphic design). In effect, the book constitutes a plea for the preservation and cataloguing of this significant class of material, so that it will be available for future examination.
Following the text is a list of some of the surviving pre-1901 examples of British and American publishers’ printed book-jackets and other detachable coverings. This list, with 1,888 entries, is the outgrowth of a process the author began in 1969: he has kept a record of every pre-1901 jacket that he came across or learned about. Because surviving jackets from the nineteenth century are scarce, and because the large majority of those that do survive are known in only a single copy, it is important to have a listing that indicates their whereabouts, or at least the basis for knowing that they exist or once existed. The list thus provides a guide to the body of evidence on which generalizations about the history of nineteenth-century jackets must be based, until more examples are reported. The book also contains two image sections: the first containing eight black-and-white plates, and the second containing sixteen color plates.
G. Thomas Tanselle, former vice president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and adjunct professor of English at Columbia University, is president of the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia and co-editor of the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of the writings of Herman Melville. He has previously served as president of the Bibliographical Society of America, the Grolier Club, and the Society for Textual Scholarship. His collection of American imprints is in the Beinecke Library at Yale, where his assemblage of nineteenth-century book-jackets will soon be placed as well.