Dust jacket

The dust jacket (sometimes book jacket, dust wrapper or dust cover) of a book is the detachable outer cover, usually made of paper and printed with text and illustrations. This outer cover has folded flaps that hold it to the front and back book covers. Often the back panel or flaps are printed with biographical information about the author, a summary of the book from the publisher (known as a blurb) or critical praise from celebrities or authorities in the book's subject area. In addition to its promotional role, the dust jacket protects the book covers from damage. However, since it is itself relatively fragile, and since dust jackets have practical, aesthetic and sometimes financial value, the jacket may in turn be wrapped in another jacket, usually transparent, especially if the book is a library volume.

Dust jacket
A dust jacket, propped up and partially unfolded for illustration

Early history

Before the 1820s, most books were published as unbound sellers and were generally sold to customers either in this form, or in simple bindings executed for the bookseller, or in bespoke bindings commissioned by the customer. At this date, publishers did not have their books bound in uniform "house" bindings, so there was no reason for them to issue dust jackets. Book owners did occasionally fashion their own jackets out of leather, wallpaper, fur, or other material, and many other types of detachable protective covers were made for codices, manuscripts, and scrolls from ancient times through the Middle Ages and into the modern period.

At the end of the 18th century publishers began to issue books in plain paper-covered boards, sometimes with a printed spine-label; this form of binding was intended to be temporary. Some collections of loose prints were issued at this period in printed paper wrappings, again intended to be temporary. In the first two decades of the nineteenth century, publishers started issuing some smaller books in bindings of printed paper-covered boards, and throughout the 1820s and 1830s some small popular books, notably annual gift-books and almanacs, were issued in detachable printed pasteboard sheaths. These small boxes are sometimes loosely and erroneously referred to as the first dust jackets. True publisher's bindings in cloth and leather, in which all, or a substantial part of, an edition were bound, were also introduced shortly before 1820, by the innovative publisher William Pickering.

Oldest dust jackets

After publishers' cloth bindings started coming into common use on all types of books in the 1820s, the first publishers' dust jackets appeared by the end of that decade. The earliest known examples were issued on English literary annuals which were popular from the 1820s to the 1850s. These books often had fancy bindings that needed protection. The jackets that were used at this time completely enclosed the books like wrapping paper and were sealed shut with wax or glue.

The oldest publishers' dust jacket now on record was issued in 1829 on an English annual, Friendship's Offering for 1830. It was discovered at the Bodleian Library in Oxford by Michael Turner, a former curator and Head of Conservation at the Library. Its existence was announced by Oxford in 2009.[1] It is three years older than the previous oldest known jacket, which was discovered in 1934 by the English bookman John Carter on another English annual, The Keepsake for 1833 (issued in 1832).[2] Both jackets are of the type that completely enclosed the books.

Most jackets of this type were torn when they were opened and then discarded like gift-wrapping paper; they were not designed to be reused, and surviving examples are known on only a handful of titles. The scarcity of jackets of this type, together with the lack of written documentation from publishers of the period, makes it very hard to determine how widely these all-enclosing jackets were used during the period from 1820 to 1850, but they were probably common on ornately bound annuals and on some trade books.

The earliest known dust jackets of the modern style, with flaps, which covered just the binding and left the text block exposed, date from the 1850s, although this type of jacket was probably in at least limited use some years earlier. This is the jacket that became standard in the publishing industry and is still in use today. It is believed that flap-style jackets were in general use by the 1880s, and probably earlier, although the number of surviving examples from the 1850s, 1860s, and 1870s is too small to prove exactly when they became ubiquitous, and again, there are no known publishers' records that document the use of dust jackets during these decades. There are, however, enough surviving examples from the 1890s to state unequivocally that dust jackets were all but universal throughout that decade. They were probably issued more often than not by the 1860s and 1870s in Europe, Great Britain, and the United States.

Late 19th and early 20th centuries

Hermione - dust jacket
Dust jacket of Hermione and her Little Group of Serious Thinkers by Don Marquis, an early work of humour, produced in 1916.

Throughout the nineteenth century, nearly all dust jackets were discarded at or soon after purchase. Many were probably discarded in bookstores as the books were put out for display, or when they were sold; there is evidence that this was common practice in England until World War I. The period from the 1820s to 1900 was a golden age for publishers' decorative bookbinding, and most dust jackets were much plainer than the books they covered, often simply repeating the main elements of the binding decoration in black on cream or brown paper. For this reason, most people preferred to display their books in their bindings, much as earlier generations had displayed their library books in their gold-tooled individual bindings, usually in leather or vellum. Even late in the nineteenth century there were still some publishers who were not using dust jackets at all (the English publisher Methuen is one example). Some firms, such as subscription houses which sold millions of cheap books door-to-door, probably never used them.

Cloth dust jackets became popular late in the nineteenth century. These jackets, with the outer cloth usually reinforced with an underlayer of paper, were issued mostly on ornate gift editions, often in two volumes and often with a slipcase. Other types of publishers' boxes were also popular in the second half of the nineteenth century, including many made to hold multi-volume sets of books. The jackets on boxed volumes were often plain, sometimes with cutouts on the spine to allow the title or volume numbers of the books to be seen.

After 1900, fashions in, and the economics of, publishing caused book bindings to become less decorative, and it was cheaper for publishers to make the jackets more attractive. By around 1920, most of the artwork and decoration had migrated from the binding to the dust jacket, and jackets were routinely printed with multiple colors, extensive advertising and blurbs; even the underside of the jacket was now sometimes used for advertising.

As dust jackets became more attractive than the bindings, more people began to keep the jackets on their books, at least until they became soiled, torn, or worn out. One bit of evidence that indicates when jackets became saved objects is the movement of the printed price from the spine of the jacket to a corner of one of the flaps. This also occurred in the 1910s and early 1920s. When jackets were routinely discarded at point of purchase, it did not matter where the price was printed (and many early jackets were not printed with any price), but now if book buyers of the 1910s and 1920s wanted to save the jacket and give a book as a gift, they could clip off the price without ruining the jacket.

Supplementary bands

In Japan, both hardcover and softcover books frequently come with two dust jackets – a full-sized one, serving the same purpose as in the West (it is usually retained with the book), and a thin "obi" ("belt"; colloquially "belly band" in English), which is generally disposed of and serves a similar function to 19th century Western dust jackets.

Similar bands occasionally appear in the west, for example in Palookaville #20.[3]

As collectible items

Dust jackets from the 1920s and later were often decorated in art deco styles which are highly prized by collectors. Some of them are worth far more than the books they cover. The most famous example is the jacket on the first edition of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, published in 1925. Without jacket, the book brings $1,000 or so. With the jacket it can bring $20,000 or $30,000 or more, depending on condition. One copy in a near mint jacket was listed for sale in 2009 for half a million dollars.[4] The most valuable jackets are usually those on the high spots of literature. Condition is of paramount importance to value. Other examples of highly prized jackets include those on most of Ernest Hemingway's titles, and the first editions of books such as Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, among many others. Prices for dust jackets have become so inflated in recent years that even early reprints of certain titles in jacket can command good prices. Conversely, if the book itself is unimportant, or at least has little demand, the jacket is usually of little value either, but nearly all surviving pre-1920 jackets add some additional value to the book they cover.

Some collectors and dealers, in an effort to increase the value of a first edition that has lost its original jacket, will take a jacket from a later printing and "marry" it to the earlier one. This practice persists because some customers will pay more for a first edition in a later jacket than they would for a jacketless copy. However, switching jackets muddles the bibliographical record and creates a forgery of sorts.

See also


  1. ^ See "Earliest-known book jacket discovered in Bodleian Library" (Michelle Pauli, guardian.co.uk, Friday 24 April 2009).
  2. ^ Carter, author of the classic ABC for Book Collectors, reported his find in the September 22, 1934, issue of Publisher's Weekly
  3. ^ Graphic Novel Friday: Enter the New Palookaville, Alex Carr, Shelfari, November 12, 2010
  4. ^ See the listing at ABEbooks.com, unsold as of April, 2009.

Further reading

  • Pete Masterson (2005). Book Design and Production. Aeonix Publishing Group. ISBN 0-9669819-0-1.
  • G. Thomas Tanselle, Book-Jackets: Their History, Forms, and Use. Charlottesville, VI: Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, 2011. ISBN 978-1-883631-13-0
  • Mark R. Godburn: Nineteenth-century dust-jackets. Pinner, Middlesex, England: Private Libraries Association; New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 2016. ISBN 978-0-900002-88-5, ISBN 978-1-58456-347-1.

External links

Alan Tunbridge

Alan Tunbridge is an English artist, book dust-jacket illustrator and songwriter.


A blurb is a short promotional piece accompanying a piece of creative work. It may be written by the author or publisher or quote praise from others. Blurbs were originally printed on the back or rear dust-jacket of a book, and are now found on home video cases, web portals, and news websites. A blurb may introduce a newspaper or magazine feature story.

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.

English-language editions of The Hobbit

This list contains only complete, printed English-language editions of The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. It is not for derived or unprinted works such as screenplays, graphic novels, or audio books.


A hardcover or hardback (also known as hardbound, and sometimes as case-bound) book is one bound with rigid protective covers (typically of Binder's board or heavy paperboard covered with buckram or other cloth, heavy paper, or occasionally leather). It has a flexible, sewn spine which allows the book to lie flat on a surface when opened. Following the ISBN sequence numbers, books of this type may be identified by the abbreviation Hbk.

Hardcover books are often printed on acid-free paper, and they are much more durable than paperbacks, which have flexible, easily damaged paper covers. Hardcover books are marginally more costly to manufacture. Hardcovers are frequently protected by artistic dust jackets, but a "jacketless" alternative is becoming increasingly popular: these "paper-over-board" or "jacketless hardcover" bindings forgo the dust jacket in favor of printing the cover design directly onto the board binding.

In Milton Lumky Territory

In Milton Lumky Territory is a realist, non-science fiction novel authored by Philip K. Dick. Originally written in 1958, but rejected by prospective publishers, this book was eventually published posthumously in 1985 by Dragon Press. It was published in two editions. Fifty copies were bound in quarter leather and included a signature from one of the author's canceled checks but were not jacketed. Nine hundred fifty copies were published with a cloth binding and included a dust jacket. It was reprinted in paperback in 2006.

Jill the Reckless

Jill The Reckless is a novel by P. G. Wodehouse, first published in the United States on October 8, 1920 by George H. Doran, New York, (under the title The Little Warrior), and in the United Kingdom by Herbert Jenkins, London, on 4 July 1921. It was serialised in Collier's (US) between 10 April and 28 August 1920, in Maclean's (Canada) between 1 August and 15 November 1920, in both cases as The Little Warrior, and, as Jill the Reckless, in the Grand Magazine (UK), from September 1920 to June 1921.

The heroine here, Jill Mariner, is a sweet-natured and wealthy young woman who, at the opening, is engaged to a knighted MP, Sir Derek Underhill. We follow her through financial disaster, an adventure with a parrot, a policeman and the colourful proletariat, a broken engagement, an awkward stay with some grasping relatives, employment as a chorus girl, and the finding of true love.

Other characters include wealthy, dimwitted clubman Freddie Rooke (a precursor of Bertie Wooster), ruggedly attractive writer Wally Mason, both of these childhood friends of Jill's; her financially inept uncle Major Christopher Selby; and Sir Derek's domineering mother, Lady Underhill; Jill's unpleasant relatives on Long Island, New York; Elmer, Julia and Tibby Mariner; Drones Club member Algy Martyn, various chorus girls, composers and other theatrical types, and miscellaneous servants.

George Bevan, composer hero of Wodehouse's previous work A Damsel in Distress, receives a passing mention, as does an unspecified member of the Threepwood family. Algy Martyn later appears in Company for Henry.

The dust jacket of the UK first edition published by Herbert Jenkins was designed by Edmund Blampied.

Just After Sunset

Just After Sunset is the fifth collection of short stories by Stephen King. It was released in hardcover by Scribner on November 11, 2008, and features a holographic dust jacket. On February 6, 2008, the author's official website revealed the title of the collection to be Just Past Sunset. About a month later, the title was subtly changed to Just After Sunset. Previous titles mentioned in the media by Stephen King himself were Pocket Rockets and Unnatural Acts of Human Intercourse.On February 19, 2008, the author's official site revealed twelve stories that would comprise the collection, mentioning the possibility that one additional "bonus story" could be included, and on April 16 "The Cat from Hell" (a much anthologized but heretofore uncollected short story originally published in 1977) was added to the contents list.

King planned to begin writing a new novel, but after he was asked to edit The Best American Short Stories 2007, he was inspired to write short stories instead.Upon King's request, a limited edition was released, along with the regular version, featuring a DVD collection of the 25 episodes of the online animated series based on N., one of the stories collected in this volume.


A lorgnette () is a pair of spectacles with a handle, used to hold them in place, rather than fitting over the ears or nose. The word lorgnette is derived from the French lorgner, to take a sidelong look at, and Middle French, from lorgne, squinting. They became popularized by Englishman George Adams when he designed a practical case meant to be carried in the pocket.The lorgnette was usually used as a piece of jewelry, rather than to enhance vision. Fashionable ladies usually preferred them to spectacles. These were very popular at masquerade parties and used often at the opera. They were worn popularly in the 19th century. The lorgnette was employed as a prop and affectation by early 20th century trial lawyer Earl Rogers, and one is featured on the front cover dust jacket of his biography, Final Verdict, by his daughter Adela Rogers St. Johns.

One Who Walked Alone

One Who Walked Alone: Robert E. Howard, The Final Years is a memoir of Robert E. Howard by Novalyne Price Ellis. Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. published the book in 1986 with an edition of 800 copies. The book was adapted into the film The Whole Wide World in 1996. Grant has reprinted the book four times: 1988 (550 copies), 1998 (500 copies) and twice more. Starting with the third printing, the dust jacket was changed to include a picture of Renée Zellweger from her role in The Whole Wide World.

Rabbit Is Rich

Rabbit Is Rich is a 1981 novel by John Updike. It is the third novel of the four-part series which begins with Rabbit, Run and Rabbit Redux, and concludes with Rabbit At Rest. There is also a related 2001 novella, Rabbit Remembered. Rabbit Is Rich was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction

in 1982, as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 1981. The first-edition hardcover dust jacket for the novel was designed by the author, and is significantly different from the common horizontal-stripe designs used on the other three Rabbit novels. Later printings, including trade paperbacks, feature the trademark stripe motif with stock images of a set of car keys or an image of a late-1970s Japanese automobile.

Summer Make Good

Summer Make Good is a studio album by múm. It was released via FatCat Records on 12 April 2004. It peaked at number 11 on Billboard's Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart.The album was originally released as a cardboard sleeve CD. 28 June 2004 saw the release of a "Limited Presentation Edition", a hardcover book (with dust jacket) containing artwork, having the CD slotted into the inside back cover.

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 Bride of Newgate

The Bride of Newgate, first published in 1950, is a historical whodunnit novel by John Dickson Carr which does not feature any of Carr's series detectives. Set in England in 1815, the book combines two literary genres, historical fiction and the whodunit/detective story, and after Agatha Christie's 1944 mystery Death Comes as the End is only the second novel to do so.

The Collector's Library

In September 2003, Barnes & Noble Books of New York began to publish The Collector's Library series of some of the world's most notable literary works. By October 2005, fully fifty-nine volumes had been printed. Each unabridged volume is book size octodecimo, or 4 x 6-1/2 inches, printed in hardback, on high-quality paper, bound in real cloth, and contains a dust jacket. In 2015, The Collector's Library was acquired by Pan Macmillan.

The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers

The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers (ISBN 0-7432-6158-5) is a non-fiction baseball reference book, written by Rob Neyer and Bill James and published by Simon & Schuster in June 2004. In the text on its dust jacket, it bills itself as a "comprehensive guide" to "pitchers, the pitches they throw, and how they throw them".

Two Sisters (novel)

Two Sisters is a novelistic memoir by the American writer Gore Vidal. Originally published in 1970 this fairly short novel (174 pages) contains, according to the blurb on the dust jacket of the first edition, "Gore Vidal’s singular speculations on love, sex, death, literature and politics."

Reviewing the book in the New York Times, reviewer John Leonard complained, ""Two Sisters" works neither as a novel (all the news happens off-stage) nor as a memoir (the "I" is far too coy)."

Until I Find You

Until I Find You (2005) is the 11th published novel by John Irving. The novel was originally written in first person and only changed 10 months before publication. After realizing that so much of the material—childhood sexual abuse and a long-lost father who eventually ends up in a mental institution—was too close to his own experiences, Irving postponed publication of the novel while he rewrote it entirely in third person.

The cover is a close-up photo/illustration of the side of a woman's breast, with a tattoo on it (as in the novel). The American publisher requested their version be a very close shot of the side of the breast, so the body part in question wouldn't be readily identifiable, and therefore would not offend readers or passersby in the bookstore. The Canadian dust jacket features a close-up that is more readily identifiable as the side of a woman's breast (and is the dust jacket Irving prefers).


Voh is a commune in the North Province of New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean.

It has become famous for the aerial photography known as The Heart of Voh, a large formation of vegetation that resembles a heart seen from above. Photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand contributed to its popularity by using a photograph of the 'heart' as the dust jacket art to his books The Earth from the Air and Earth from Above.Voh is also the closest large settlement to the enormous Koniambo mine, and it hosted indentured Vietnamese mineworkers from the late 1800s until the 1940s, termed the Chân Dăng.

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