Paper Wrapper to Dust Jacket

By Carol Mobley
   First let me say, “I love books.” I love to read, I love the smell of the ink on the paper, I love the feel of turning a page as you read. I love it when an author is especially talented and writes an engaging story but I also love it when a book has an interesting dust jacket. Sometimes you can be suckered into buying a book because the artwork on the dust jacket is so appealing. Just like selecting a new craft beer or wine — some of the labels get you before you can even read the details about the selection!
   I decided to find out about dust jackets or dust covers, or book wrappers. The modern style dust jacket was first used in the 1830’s. It was a plain paper cover with flaps that kept the cover in place and most often times was torn off the book much like wrapping paper on a gift. Few examples of this type of dust jacket remain. Most book owners wanted the fine binding of their books to be seen on the shelf rather than a brown paper wrapper.
   By the 1870’s dust jackets were in wide use as it protected the book and kept it pristine. Lewis Carroll sent a letter to his publisher in 1876 where he requested that the publisher print the title of his latest book on the spine of the “paper wrapper.” That way the book buyer could keep the dust cover to protect the book and still identify at a glance which books were on the shelf. Books still were made with fine bindings and a simple paper cover with title and author were printed on the dust jacket.

In the 1920’s the dust jacket evolved into something more. It now included biographical material about the author. Graphic artists were hired to create artwork for the cover and that is what attracts me. Graphic artists have my utmost admiration. Both of the examples I have provided with this article have the artists identified, Tom Lea and Raymond Lufkin. The internet provides a showcase of great book covers and artists who created them. You may have even created a dust jacket out of a brown paper bag to protect your school books.
   There is something else a dust jacket does for a book – it increases the value! Especially with older books, the dust jackets were removed and discarded so there are more books without jackets than there are with the dust jacket. This has created a market for ‘counterfeit’ dust jackets. Scrupulous book sellers will identify if the dust jacket is a reproduction.
   There are 2 events this summer you should attend if you like graphic art and books. The first is the Denver Postcard & Paper Show on Friday & Saturday July 19 & 20 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. There will be postcards, posters, graphic art, Colorado history and much more. The second is the 35th Rocky Mountain Book & Paper Fair on Friday and Saturday August 2-3 at the Denver Mart. This is the largest book and paper ephemera show in the Rocky Mountain region and will have approximately 70 exhibitors with books, ephemera, art, Colorado history and so much more. If you want information about either show visit or _ 2019_GeneralInfo.html You can also call Carol or Bill Mobley at 303-761-3755. Hope to see you at both events!

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