• Steven Heller

Before Jackets: Naked Covers

With books migrating to pads and pods this maybe a moot point. But before designed book jackets, book covers were the primary illustrative and typographical surface on a book. We’d save a lot of trees, if book jackets were no longer used. But then again, we will save even more trees once everything is digital and paper is a quaint reminder of more primitive communications.

But enough of my speculative blather. I assure you that paper is here to stay (for a while) and it’s the illustrated cloth over boards cover that’s virtually lost to another time and place. Nonetheless, Arts and Crafts Book Covers by Malcolm Haslam (Richard Denis, London) recalls the exquisite “stamped” cover designs of the late 19th century Arts and Crafts movement.

Haslam is leading scholar of the period and his detailed account of the movement, its designers and their penchant for decorated covers (from around 1860) is one of the most inclusive I’ve read. The photographs of the covers below (in the book over 90 in all), makes this an essential document of a fertile creative period.

Designed by A.A. Turbayne, 1895.

Designed by Fred Mason, 1895.

Designed by Gleeson White, 1897.

Designed by Selwyn Image, 1899.

Designed by Laurence Housman, 1899.

Designed by Paul Woodroffe, 1908.

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