Friday, July 12, 2019

Painted Covers

Cover of Hurrah for Anything hand painted by Kenneth PatchenIt is our week for thinking about book covers. We just blogged a mundane 19th-century book jacket--here is the polar opposite. Kenneth Patchen is famous for his hybrid poem/images. As he wrote, he would draw, and those drawings illustrated the poems (or maybe the poem was an ekphrastic manifestation of the drawing...). Anyway, his books are commonly picture/poem throughout.

Handwritten colophon for Kenneth Patchen's Hurrah for Anything
Patchen's love of drawing spills out onto the covers. Rather than issue separate fancy editions for his books, Patchen took one hundred copies of the regular trade editions of nine titles and turned them into limited editions by painting their covers and adding a handwritten colophon. The result is a limited edition of 100 copies, each unique! Here is our copy of Hurrah of Anything, 1957.

Come in and take a look by asking for Val817 P271 R6.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Keeping the Merchandise Clean

Plain book jacket for Lafcadio Hearn's YoumaIn about 1920, flashy book jackets became all the rage. Publishers recognized that a dust jacket could do more than simply protect a book in transit. They put cool pictures on the front and studded the back with catchy blurbs, and the book jacket become a powerful point-of-sale marketing tool--and a collector's item as well.

It wasn't always so glamorous. In the 19th century, book jackets were pretty plain. They listed the author and title, and sometimes the publisher, but were not enticing in the least. Their whole point was to protect the cover during distribution and sale. As soon as any self-respecting book buyer got home he or she would discard the jacket and enjoy the pristine cover, spared the ravages of shipping and handling.

Plain jacket removed from book so flaps are shown. There is no type except the title, author and publisher on spine.
All of that makes late-19th-century book jackets very rare. We are lucky to have a handful scattered in the collections. Lafcadio Hearn's Youma (New York: Scribner's, 1890) is a prime example. You can see it yourself by asking for Val 816 H35 Z5.