Despite the fact that dust jackets often include useful information about a book and its author, including biographical notes and often a portrait, it has long been Research Libraries practice to remove the jackets from new books during processing for their permanent place in the stacks. However, from 1926 to 1947, anonymous librarians selected and saved interesting jackets from books of all sorts. Arranged roughly by date published/acquired, these paper covers eventually filled the 22 large scrapbooks presented here. This digital collection offers, first, a view of each jacket's front, spine, and inside flap; jacket backs and flaps may be viewed by clicking the View Verso button on the image details pages.
The specimens preserved here represent just a tiny percentage of the books that entered the collection during the two-decade span, and no record has surfaced of the criteria used by the anonymous librarians for choosing which dust jackets to keep. Obviously some jackets have high artistic merit or illustrate a design trend. Others possess no remarkable graphic qualities, but entered the scrapbooks because of the importance or popularity of the author. Ranged side-by-side within years, the dust jackets provide an overview of the graphic design taste and trends of the time, while helping to reconstruct the atmosphere of the annual panoply of an era's published works, with classic titles alongside their less enduring contemporaries.
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) and puffs of 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 meant for lending out to patrons.
Before the 1820s, most books were published as unbound sheets 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 codexes, manuscripts, and scrolls from ancient times through the Middle Ages and into the modern period.