Cover Art, Part 2. Mainstream Hard Cover Dust Jacket Art, 1920- 1990

This is the second of my series of posts looking at book covers. This time, we cover Dust Jackets from about 1920 or so, to about 1990 or so. The book selling industry went through a lot of changes as the country did and so did books. So, w go from the Washington sguare book shop to the big box stores of today and the books inside them.
https://collections.mcny.org/Collection/Washington%20Square%20Bookshop,%2017%20West%208th%20Street-2F3XC5U0V5IE.html
Note: the books chosen are chosen because of the way that the covers were done, not the content of the actual books. So there may be examples of things like Fabian Socialism. That does not mean that I care about the book.

Dust jackets were originally, just that, paper sleeves to protect the books in shipping. The jackets were expected to be removed when the book was received in the shop. Around the turn of the century, that began to change as the publishers printed the title and author’s name and while they were at it, a wood block relating to the book inside the jacket.


The next step was to use a color ink other than black.




After that it was two, three and four color printing based on the requirements of the art director.
The art direction of book covers if interesting because other than children’s books, the trend was toward modernism and simplicity for books, Especially some that may surprise you. Here is how Hemingway was covered, for instance.




Sometimes entirely differently with different publishers and art directors.



Here are more covers.












In and around WW2 a change in dust jacket art occurred. That may have been caused by the availability of glossy paper or an improvement in printing processes, but dust art seemed to have the full color illustration previously seen on applied illustrations added to children’s books.







As time went forward, both abstract and a more photographic styles came into being with some surprising results as these covers show.




One thing that must be remembered is at the cover is advertising. For these books the art may not need to have any relationship to the contents as long as it attracted the eye from inside the bookshop window or across the room. If the cover could get the book picked up, that was enough. For a new author and an unknown story, a more illustrative cover is necessary as an introduction to the story. If the book is by Agatha Christie a dog is just fine.

For Metropolis, a oppressive abstraction works.

For Ian Fleming and James Bond, A rose and pistol work.

That is when you don’t go completely abstract.

On the other hand, for PG Wodehouse, a funny picture of Jeeves and Wooster does the trick, preferably rather cartoonish.

I think that this is a good enough brief overview of the dust jacket art on books. For more book covers, here is my section on pinterest.

There also more links in the various pinterest links with more covers. Next up will be the gutter trash of pulp fiction covers, with some titles, with rather different covers showing up again.

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