Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Two today

These are not wrap-around covers, so I've posted two. The first, The Wood Fire in No. 3, by F. Hopkinson Smith (Scribner, New York 1907). The spine has faded, but it has a faintly-discernable bellows and a little heart above the title. Now, this is a fairly common book in used bookshops, but I do love this cover, with its all-over design, bright gilt detail, bold white lettering, black details, and faint gray and white smoke swirls:

The book itself is a series of sentimental stories connected by the conceit of being told sitting at a fireplace. The stories themselves are also connected, and browsing through the book I see that they make up a rather sweet romance.

The second book is The Suburban Sage: Stray Notes and Comments On His Simple Life by H.C. Bunner (Keppler & Schwarzmann, New York 1896). Illustrations by C.J. Taylor. A strange little series of essays about suburbanites and their habits, with chapters on golf, dogs, horses, visiting, house-building, moving, neighbors, and the like. The writing is quite good, but it's this great cover that made me hang on to the book, with its silver picket fence and the sign hanging on the fence reading THIS PLACE FOR SALE CHEAP:

Another great all-over cover design. I keep this book on display near the counter at the bookshop. Marked not for sale, of course.

Is this a lost art for modern books? The design on cloth covers? Almost all Soviet books had designs on cloth covers (dust jacket was known but not that common). Here is one example from World Literature Library for Children:'fgang/.Online/Obl-zed..jpg
This particular volume is the plays of Western Europe, hence the picture.
Perhaps it is a lost art. Thanks in part to the invention of the dust jacket. Attractive cloth covers were an art form, but also were created to sell those books, and when dust jackets started staying on books (instead of being thrown away after one purchased the books), they were also used to sell the books. They still are. So the cloth covers of most books got plainer and plainer. And now it's unusual to pick up a new trade hardcover which has a cloth cover, or even a cloth spine. It's gotta be from a great publisher or be a really good author to warrant that treatment. Which is a shame. I love bookcloth...
Some smaller publishers still use the book cloth well. I'm thinking namely of McSweeney's -- both Icelander and People of Paper are beautiful covers. What is the What is rather plain, and so are some of the others, but they're all better than most. McSweeney's Collins Library series is plain, but beautiful as well.
Does your collection include any bindings authored by Sarah Orne Jewett and designed by Sarah Wyman Whitman? I'll bet these are close to home for your love of simple and elegant designs? (not to mention great content)

Hi Sarah, you might enjoy the Orange Judd covers at the Library Of Michigan's website:,1607,7-160-17449_26719_44786---,00.html

for the book exhibits. Orange Judd link below:,1607,7-160-17449_26719_44786-79217--,00.html

They're gorgeous covers, I think.
Yes, ui - I have a collection of McSweeney's stuff myself - they do wonderful things with bookcloth, and book design in general. I've got a copy of the Icelandic issue of the quarterly here in the shop, I think I'll scan it for next week... Small but more mainstream publishers such as Beacon Press are still using bookcloth regularly, too.

Steven, thanks - see today's post!

Hey Kim, thanks for the link, I'll take a look. Eye-candy for bibliophiles is always welcome here...
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