Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Illustrated Dust Jacket, 1920-1970 by Martin Salisbury

Title: The Illustrated Dust Jacket, 1920-1970
Author: Martin Salisbury
Publication: Thames & Hudson, hardcover, 2017
Genre: Nonfiction/Books about Books/Art
Description: This book describes the history of the dust jacket, beginning in the 1920s, as an illustrated art form that is decorative and promotional, rather than merely providing protection. The author provides background on the subject, then focuses on more than 50 illustrators who were influencers of the period, some of whom became household names (that is, depending on your household). The book contains four-page spreads of these illustrators with biographical information, along with some of their best-known or interesting work, reflecting visual style and changes in the industry during the fifty years covered.
My Impression: It is such a pleasure after a hectic day of work to sit and look at beautiful books.  I learned about this book in a glowing LA Times review. If you are interested in art and books, I suggest you watch this video which captures the beauty of the interior pages. It is delightful to page through, whether or not one is familiar with the illustrator. In fact, the author/collector, a professor of Illustration at a British university, points out that few dust jackets are signed so apart from illustrators whose style is instantly recognizable like Edward Gorey or Edward Ardizzone, his research must have been a lot like detective work. The dust jacket was intended to promote the book and author (and occasionally, the publisher or brand), not the artist.
The dust jacket for The Catcher in the Rye is famous but probably few know the name of the illustrator, E. Michael Mitchell, a Canadian-born artist who was friendly with J.D. Salinger in their Westport, Connecticut neighborhood, at the time the book was being written. Mitchell said the famous dust jacket was “a minor project. Salinger was a friend. I did that as a favour for him.” I am not a fan of this book so never finished it or looked closely enough to realize it is based on a carousel scene in Central Park.
Some of the illustrations featured that I particularly liked are The Growing Summer by Edward Ardizzone (US title The Magic Summer, always annoying as there was no magic; I am surprised Random House didn’t retitle it Summer Shoes!), To the Lighthouse which Vanessa Bell designed for her sister, and several by Brian Cook who was known for distinctive artwork of the British countryside. His designs appeared on over 130 Batsford travel guides and became collectible.
Two that will be recognizable to my readers are Tom’s Midnight Garden by Susan Einzig for which she was paid £100 in 1958 by Oxford University Press and The Borrowers by Mary Norton, designed by the popular husband and wife team, Americans Beth and Joe Krush. The Krushes were also known for their illustrations of authors Elizabeth Enright, Virginia Sorensen, and Sydney Taylor, to name just a few. For more on the Krushes, click here. I also really like the cover of Bless This Day by my beloved Elfrida Vipont, designed by Harold Jones.
My grandmother, who loved books as much as anyone, discarded the dust jackets of her books published in the 50s and 60s, which always puzzled me.  Later, she changed her mind and I felt some of her unjacketed books looked very reproachfully at their better-dressed cohorts.

: Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Book Depository * Libraries
Source: Boston Public Library


Lex @ Lexlingua said...

Books about books can be so terribly addictive (e.g. Jo Walton's What Makes this Book So Great) -- but even better? When said books talk about the book cover / book artwork. I really wish I had an illustrated edition of Borrowers, or that I'd read Tom's Midnight Garden as a kid!

Lark said...

I agree with Lex. Books about books always seem to draw me in. And this looks like a fun one. I love all those old-fashioned covers. :)

Jeanne said...

I don't usually care much about illustrations or book-covers but looking at some of these gave me the feeling of looking at old friends!

Test said...

I didn't know I needed this, but I need to read this SO badly. What a great idea. Love the illustrations in The Borrower, and just love to look at covers in general.

CLM said...

As Jeanne said, paging through this book was like looking at old friends. Some of them were books my grandparents read more than I did but many were familiar.

Lex, I don't know that particular Jo Walton book but will have to look for it. I heard her speak several years ago and she seemed such a kindred spirit.

I must have read something about it that really excited me to have requested the library purchase it - and it was nice that they did so quite promptly!

Katrina said...

I have a few books on children's bookcovers and illustrators, this one sounds interesting. I can clearly remember my father telling me that bookcovers should be thrown out, it was the adult thing to do apparently. I sadly discarded toe cover of the book my Gran had just given me, Kelman D. Frost's Sahara Hostage. It's the only childhood book of mine that I still have as my mother gave the others away - when my back was turned!

carol said...

This sounds lovely and I bet my daughter would like it too. And I love books about books. I'm off to add it to my wishlist.