We (I anyway) tend to think of book jackets as a relatively recent invention. One is vaguely aware of rather plain pre-war jackets, and it is probably reasonable to date the fashion for embellishments on jackets such as embossing, foil stamping, die cut holes, spot gloss etc. to fairly recent times. Even lamination is a relatively recent phenomenon. In my early days in this business jackets seemed all to be printed by letterpress, and tended to be of typographical, rather than graphic design.

The Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia has published Book-Jackets: Their History, Forms, and Use by G. Thomas Tanselle from which (according to the review in The Times Literary Supplement of 4 May, 2012) we can learn that “forms of protective book covering” can be traced back to the 18th century, and began to become common with the introduction of cloth binding in the 1820s. Obviously jackets tend to get destroyed well before the books they cover do, so we are likely to be unfamiliar with the jackets of 19th century books, but it seems that some did indeed have them. The first International Book-Jacket Exhibition was held in 1949, so a concentration on the aesthetics of the jacket may be what is the recent development. I’ve no doubt that jacket design has changed a lot: in that connection Chip Kidd’s recent TED talk may be of interest. 

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