Saturday, April 25, 2009


The DJ of 1830

Today's Guardian reports a pretty nifty find at the Bodleian: the first known dust jacket.

A librarian at Oxford's Bodleian Library has unearthed the earliest-known book dust jacket. Dating from 1830, the jacket wrapped a silk-covered gift book, Friendship's Offering. Unlike today's dust jackets, wrappers of the early 19th century were used to enfold the book completely, like a parcel. Traces of sealing wax where the paper was secured can still be seen on the Bodleian's discovery...

"These books were like gift books, often bound very nicely and probably in silk," said Clive Hurst, the Bodleian's head of rare books and printed ephemera. "Silk bindings are very vulnerable to wear and tear and handling so bookselllers would keep them in these wrappers to protect the silk binding underneath. When you bought the book you would take the wrapper off and put it on your shelves, which is presumably why so few of these covers have survived."
Taking a quick trawl through reviews and ads for Friendship's Offering reveals something curious: none mention the wrapper, including this one from New Monthly Magazine that does make a point of praising other "novelties" in its binding and contents. If the wrapper was not considered a novelty even in 1830, I can only wonder whether there may be an even older one out there, still waiting to found...

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