Book cover

A book cover is any protective covering used to bind together the pages of a book. Beyond the familiar distinction between hardcovers and paperbacks, there are further alternatives and additions, such as dust jackets, ring-binding, and older forms such as the nineteenth-century "paper-boards" and the traditional types of hand-binding. The term "Bookcover" is often used for a book cover image in library management software. This article is concerned with modern mechanically produced covers.


Before the early nineteenth century, books were hand-bound, in the case of luxury medieval manuscripts using materials such as gold, silver and jewels. For hundreds of years, book bindings had functioned as a protective device for the expensively printed or hand-made pages, and as a decorative tribute to their cultural authority. In the 1820s great changes began to occur in how a book might be covered, with the gradual introduction of techniques for mechanical book-binding. Cloth, and then paper, became the staple materials used when books became so cheap—thanks to the introduction of steam-powered presses and mechanically produced paper—that to have them hand-bound became disproportionate to the cost of the book itself.

Not only were the new types of book-covers cheaper to produce, they were also printable, using multi-colour lithography, and later, halftone illustration processes. Techniques borrowed from the nineteenth-century poster-artists gradually infiltrated the book industry, as did the professional practice of graphic design. The book cover became more than just a protection for the pages, taking on the function of advertising, and communicating information about the text inside.

Cover design

Hanna book cover
Early 20th century leather book cover, with gold leaf ornamentation.

The Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements at the turn of the twentieth century stimulated a modern renaissance in book cover design that soon began to infiltrate the growing mass book industry through the more progressive publishers in Europe, London and New York. Some of the first radically modern cover designs were produced in the Soviet Union during the 1920s by avant-gardists such as Alexander Rodchenko and El Lissitzky. Another highly influential early book cover designer was Aubrey Beardsley, thanks to his striking covers for the first four volumes of The Yellow Book (1894–5).

In the post-war era, book covers have become vitally important as the book industry has become commercially competitive. Covers now give detailed hints about the style, genre and subject of the book, while many push design to its limit in the hope of attracting sales attention.

This can differ from country to country because of other tastes of the markets. So translated books can also have different book-accessories such as toys belonging to children's books, for example Harry Potter.

The era of internet sales has arguably not diminished the importance of the book cover, as it now continues its role in a two-dimensional digital form, helping to identify and promote books online.

Wraparound covers are also common.


  • Front cover contents may usually be:
    • For novels, the novel title in large letters, author name, tagline and symbol of publisher (in corner)
  • Back cover (also called 'lower cover') contents may usually be:
    • For novels, a back cover text or teaser that gives a hint of the story in an attractive way.
    • A picture of the writer.
    • A summary

See also

  • Bookbinding – the process of physically assembling a book
  • Don't judge a book by its cover, a phrase derived from the perceived difference between the portrayal of a book on its cover or jacket, and the book's contents

Further reading

  • Eighty Years of Book Cover Design, Joseph Connolly. London: Faber and Faber, 2009. ISBN 978-0-571-24000-5 (hardcover) and ISBN 978-0-571-24001-2 (paperback).

External links

Barry Blitt

Barry Blitt (born April 30, 1958 in Côte Saint-Luc, Quebec) is a Canadian-born American artist.

Barry Blitt is a cartoonist and illustrator, best known for his New Yorker covers and as a regular contributor to the op-ed page of The New York Times. Blitt creates his works in traditional pen and ink, as well as watercolors.

Chip Kidd

Charles "Chip" Kidd (born 1964) is an American graphic designer, best known for his book covers. Based in New York city, Kidd has become one of the most famous book cover designers to date.

Cover art

Cover art is a type of artwork presented as an illustration or photograph on the outside of a published product such as a book (often on a dust jacket), magazine, newspaper (tabloid), comic book, video game (box art), DVD, CD, videotape, or music album (album art). The art has a primarily commercial function, for instance to promote the product it is displayed on, but can also have an aesthetic function, and may be artistically connected to the product, such as with art by the creator of the product.

Cover date

The cover date of a periodical publication such as a magazine or comic book is the date displayed on the cover. This is not necessarily the true date of publication (the on-sale date or release date). For some publications, the cover date may not be found on the cover, but rather on an inside jacket or on an interior page.

Dark Mirror (Angel novel)

Dark Mirror is an original novel based on the U.S. television series Angel. Tagline: "What is the true reflection of a champion?" (The promotional image of the 'Book cover' above has the wrong tagline).

Dork Diaries

Dork Diaries is a humorous children's book series written and illustrated by Rachel Renée Russell.

The series, written in a diary format, uses drawings, doodles, and comic strips to chronicle the daily life of its 14-year-old protagonist, Nikki Maxwell, in and outside of middle school.

Rachel Renée Russell said that this series was inspired by her own middle school experiences as well as those of her two daughters, Erin and Nikki. Her older daughter, Erin, helps with writing and her younger daughter, Nikki, helps with illustrations. Dork Diaries is published by Aladdin Paperbacks.Over 5 million copies of the Dork Diaries books are in print in the United States, and publishing rights have been sold in 32 countries with translation into 28 different languages.

Dreams from My Father

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (1995) is a memoir by Barack Obama, who was elected as U.S. President in 2008. The memoir explores the events of Obama's early years in Honolulu and Chicago up until his entry into law school in 1988. Obama published the memoir in July 1995, when he was starting his political campaign for Illinois Senate. He had been elected as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review in 1990. According to The New York Times, Obama modeled Dreams from My Father on Ralph Ellison's novel Invisible Man.After Obama won the U.S. Senate Democratic primary victory in Illinois in 2004, the book was re-published that year. He gave the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (DNC) and won the Illinois Senate seat in the fall. Obama launched his presidential campaign three years later. The 2004 edition includes a new preface by Obama and his DNC keynote address.

Grantville Gazette III

The Grantville Gazette III is the third collaborative and the fourth anthology in the 1632 series edited by the series creator, Eric Flint. It was published as an e-book by Baen Books in October 2004. It was released as a hardcover in January 2007, and trade paperback in June 2008 with both editions containing Flint's story "Postage Due".

Michael Jackson, Inc.

Michael Jackson, Inc.: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of a Billion-Dollar Empire is a non-fiction book written by Zack O'Malley Greenburg, published in June 2014 by the Simon and Schuster imprint, Atria Books.

National Lampoon The Gentleman's Bathroom Companion

National Lampoon The Gentleman's Bathroom Companion was a humorous book that was first published in 1975. It was a "special edition" of National Lampoon magazine, and as such it was sold on newsstands in addition to that month's regular issue of the magazine. The pieces in the book were created by regular contributors to the National Lampoon including Michael O'Donoghue, Henry Beard, Doug Kenney, Sean Kelly, Tony Hendra, P.J. O'Rourke and Ed Subitzky as well as Terry Southern and William Burroughs. The content was mostly, but not entirely, compiled from material that had already been published in the magazine.

The book cover art is a photograph which parodies a series of 1970s TV commercials advertising a blue toilet bowl cleanser in which a tiny man (known as the Ty-D-Bol man), wearing a neat nautical outfit and a yachting cap, was seen motoring around the inside of a toilet cistern in a tiny boat, always by himself. On the book cover parody, the Ty-D-Bol man is playing the ukulele and has a beautiful female companion in a bikini, however, the cistern is about to be flushed. The Ty-D-Bol man was played by Ed Subitzky.

A description (or possibly a subtitle) on the cover reads:

Being a Miscellany of Divers Ribald Drolleries Culled from the Pages of the National Lampoon, to which are appended Sundry Amusing Sketches by Mr. Sam Gross, Esq., and the Latest Novella by Mr. Chris Miller, B.A.

Nemesis (Angel novel)

Nemesis is an original novel based on the U.S. television series Angel. Tagline: "Evil lurks where the science and supernatural collide." (The promotional picture of the book cover in this article has the wrong tagline.)

Roy MacLaren (politician)

Roy MacLaren, (born 26 October 1934), is a Canadian politician, diplomat, historian, and author.

Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of British Columbia with a major in History, a master's degree from St Catharine's College, Cambridge, a Master of Divinity degree from the University of Trinity College and an honorary Doctor of Sacred Letters degree from the University of Toronto, another honorary degree from the University of Alabama, and in 1973 attended Harvard University's Advanced Management Program. In 2002, he received the Alumni Award of Distinction from the University of British Columbia.

During twelve years with the Canadian foreign service, MacLaren's postings included Hanoi, Saigon, Prague and the United Nations in New York and Geneva. He served as the Canadian Chair of the Canada-Europe Round Table and the Canadian Institute for International Affairs. He has also served on the Canadian and British board of directors of Deutsche Bank plus a number of other multi-national corporations. He is also the Honorary Colonel of the 7th Toronto Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery. MacLaren is currently the Chairman of the Canada-India Business Council.His historical book, Canadians on the Nile, 1882–1898 was published in 1978 and the following year he was elected to the House of Commons of Canada as the Liberal MP for Etobicoke North. In June 1983, MacLaren was appointed by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau as Minister of State [Finance]. In June 1984, he was appointed to John Turner's short-lived cabinet as Minister of National Revenue, but was defeated in the September election by Conservative Bob Pennock. In 1988, he was again elected MP for Etobicoke North. After the Liberals won the 1993 election, he was appointed Minister of International Trade, but resigned that position and his seat in 1996, when he was appointed High Commissioner for Canada in the United Kingdom. He served in that position until 2000.

Roy MacLaren is currently the Chairman of the Canada-India Business Council he also co-Chairs the Canada Europe Roundtable for Business, sits on the Council of the Champlain Society, the Executive Committee of the Trilateral Commission, the board of directors of the Royal Ontario Museum Foundation Board, is President of St Catharine's College Society, and a director of The Council for Business and the Arts in Canada. His published writings reflect his personal and professional experience, much of it concentrating on Canada's international history.

While serving as High Commissioner in London, he published the historically significant diaries of explorer William Stairs. The depiction on the book cover of the expedition up Mt. Ruwenzori is based on a sketch by William Stairs now in the National Archives of Canada.

Swipe (comics)

Swipe is a comics term for the intentional copying of a cover, panel, or page from an earlier comic book or graphic novel without crediting the original artist.

Artists Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, Hergé, and Jim Lee are common targets of swipes, though even those artists may not be above reproach; Kirby was known to have swiped from Hal Foster early in his career. Similarly, many Golden Age artists kept "swipe files" of material to be copied as needed. Certain contemporary artists have become notorious for their swiping, including Rich Buckler (who favors Neal Adams and Jack Kirby), Rob Liefeld (many artists), Keith Giffen (José Antonio Muñoz), and Roger Cruz (Jim Lee and Joe Madureira).

There is a long tradition in comics of using fine art as "inspiration" as well. Most observers do not consider this as objectionable as swiping from another cartoonist's work. Examples include Art Spiegelman swiping an image of the Russian artist M. Mazruho's in Maus, Eddie Campbell swiping Diego Velázquez, and Jill Thompson swiping the work of Arthur Rackham.Cartoonists have also swiped images from mass media and commercial art. Examples include Batman creator Bob Kane repeatedly swiping from early 20th-century illustrator Henry Vallely, Greg Land repeatedly swiping pornography as well as many popular comic book artists, 2000 AD artist Mick Austin swiping an image of Toni Shilleto's from Mayfair: Entertainment for Men, Jon J. Muth swiping a 1940s photograph, and David Chelsea swiping from Spanish pornography. Sometimes the swiping happens "in reverse," as in the example of an illustration from Organic Gardening magazine swiping the iconic Kirby cover for Fantastic Four #1.Swiping brings to mind the amusing conundrum of whether an artist can swipe from himself. One example is two almost-identical Peanuts strips by Charles Schulz done almost ten years apart. Another comic strip-related ethics question was invoked by latter-day Nancy artists Guy & Brad Gilchrist swiping Nancy creator Ernie Bushmiller.

The Brand New Monty Python Bok

The Brand New Monty Python Bok was the second book to be published by the British comedy troupe Monty Python. Edited by Eric Idle, it was published by Methuen Books in 1973 and contained more print-style comic pieces than their first effort, Monty Python's Big Red Book.

The white dust jacket was printed with some realistic looking smudged fingerprints on the front leading to complaints from booksellers. These complaints paled in comparison to the fuss created about the cover printed on the actual book.

The title of the fake cover was Tits 'n Bums, which purported to be a church magazine with articles such as "Are you still a verger?", and the by-line a 'weekly look at church architecture'. The background photo for the 'magazine' consisted, however, of several intertwined naked women. As Michael Palin remembered: "Our publisher Geoffrey Strachan told the story of an elderly lady bookseller from Newbury who refused to believe the fingerprints were put there deliberately. 'In that case I shall sell the books without their jackets', she said and slammed the phone down so quickly that Geoffrey was unable to warn her that beneath each dust-cover was a mock soft-core magazine".The book contained an amalgamation of print-style pieces and material derived from Flying Circus sketches. Examples of the former include an interconnected series of jokes based on figures of speech and an advertisement for the fictional Welsh martial art of Llap Goch, which claims to be able to teach students how to grow taller, stronger, faster, and more deadly in a matter of days. Examples of the latter include Sam Peckinpah's "Salad Days" and the Travel Agent sketch, a collection of stereotypes about annoying tourists and the perils of inter-country air travel.

In 1974 a paperback edition was issued as The Brand New Monty Python Papperbok, containing the same contents minus the Tits 'n Bums book cover. In 1981 both this book and Monty Python's Big Red Book were reissued as a hardback book entitled The Complete Works Of Shakespeare And Monty Python: Volume One - Monty Python. Paperback editions of both these books were reissued again in 1986 as The Monty Python Gift Boks, sold together inside an outer cover which folded out into a mini poster.

The Case for Latvia

The Case for Latvia. Disinformation Campaigns Against a Small Nation. Fourteen Hard Questions and Straight Answers about a Baltic Country is a non-fiction book on the history of Latvia by the awarded Finnish author Jukka Rislakki. The book was first published 2007 in the Finnish language. It was translated to English by Richard Impola and published by the Rodopi publishing house 2008. An expanded second edition was published January 2014. The Case for Latvia is part of the series On the Boundary of Two Worlds: Identity, Freedom, and Moral Imagination in the Baltics.

The Realms of the Gods

The Realms of the Gods is a fantasy novel by Tamora Pierce, the fourth and last in a series of books, The Immortals.

The Revengers (novel)

The Revengers, published in 1982, is a novel in the long-running secret agent series Matt Helm by Donald Hamilton. It was the first Helm book published since 1977 and the nineteenth book published overall since 1960.

This book was seen as a reintroduction of the character after a five-year hiatus, including multiple references to past missions and with a younger-looking depiction of the character on the book cover (his origins as a Second World War assassin being played down). Beginning with this novel the page count of Hamilton's novels was also noticeably greater and this remained in place for the remainder of the series.

The Thing!

The Thing! is an American horror comic book published by Charlton Comics that ran 17 issues from 1952 to 1954. Its tagline was "Weird tales of suspense and horror!" After the 17th issue, it was cancelled and the series' numbering continued as Blue Beetle vol. 2.Artist Steve Ditko provided the covers for #12-15 and 17. He also illustrated stories in issues #12-15. The cover of #12 marks this industry notable's first comic-book cover art.In 2006, Pure Imagination released the trade paperback Steve Ditko's The Thing! that reprinted all of Ditko's stories from this title, and used the cover of #15 for its cover. The back cover shows the covers from The Thing! #12, 13 and 14 and Strange Suspense Stories #22. It also included Ditko stories from Charlton's Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #5 and #11, Do You Believe In Nightmares #1, Strange Suspense Stories #36, and Unusual Tales #25.

In 2014, the UK publisher PS Artbooks reprinted the entire series in a two-volume hardcover edition.

General page layout and typography choices
Front and back covers
Front matter
Body matter, which may include:
Back matter
Other elements

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