Book cover

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Front cover of the St Cuthbert Gospel, c. 700; the original tooled red goatskin binding is the earliest surviving Western binding. The St Cuthbert Gospel of St John. (formerly known as the Stonyhurst Gospel) is the oldest intact European book. - Upper cover (Add Ms 89000) (cropped).jpg
Front cover of the St Cuthbert Gospel, c.700; the original tooled red goatskin binding is the earliest surviving Western binding.

A book cover is any protective covering used to bind together the pages of a book. Beyond the familiar distinction between hardcovers and paperbacks, there are further alternatives and additions, such as dust jackets, ring-binding, and older forms such as the nineteenth-century "paper-boards" and the traditional types of hand-binding. The term "Bookcover" is often used for a book cover image in library management software. This article is concerned with modern mechanically produced covers.



Ivory cover of the Codex Aureus of Lorsch, c. 810, Carolingian dynasty, Victoria and Albert Museum Ivory cover of the Lorsch Gospels, c. 810, Carolingian, Victoria and Albert Museum.jpg
Ivory cover of the Codex Aureus of Lorsch, c.810, Carolingian dynasty, Victoria and Albert Museum
One of the goldsmith covers from the so-called silver library of Duke Albrecht Hohenzollern in Konigsberg, now in Nicolaus Copernicus University Library, c. 1555 Andrzej R Skowronski - Ob.6.III.713 0002.jpg
One of the goldsmith covers from the so-called silver library of Duke Albrecht Hohenzollern in Königsberg, now in Nicolaus Copernicus University Library, c.1555

Before the early nineteenth century, books were hand-bound, in the case of luxury medieval manuscripts in treasure bindings using materials such as gold, silver and jewels. For hundreds of years, book bindings had functioned as a protective device for the expensively printed or hand-made pages, and as a decorative tribute to their cultural authority. In the 1820s great changes began to occur in how a book might be covered, with the gradual introduction of techniques for mechanical book-binding. Cloth, and then paper, became the staple materials used when books became so cheap—thanks to the introduction of steam-powered presses and mechanically produced paper—that to have them hand-bound became disproportionate to the cost of the book itself.

Not only were the new types of book-covers cheaper to produce, they were also printable, using multi-colour lithography, and later, halftone illustration processes. Techniques borrowed from the nineteenth-century poster-artists gradually infiltrated the book industry, as did the professional practice of graphic design. The book cover became more than just a protection for the pages, taking on the function of advertising, and communicating information about the text inside.

Cover design

Detail of the cover of a pocket edition of the Book of Common Prayer, vellucent binding by Cedric Chivers with Art Nouveau gold tooling, hand-painted design inlaid with mother of pearl The Book of Common Prayer, Chivers, detail.jpg
Detail of the cover of a pocket edition of the Book of Common Prayer , vellucent binding by Cedric Chivers with Art Nouveau gold tooling, hand-painted design inlaid with mother of pearl
Early 20th century leather book cover, with gold leaf ornamentation Hanna book cover.jpg
Early 20th century leather book cover, with gold leaf ornamentation

The Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements at the turn of the twentieth century stimulated a modern renaissance in book cover design that soon began to infiltrate the growing mass book industry through the more progressive publishers in Europe, London and New York. Some of the first radically modern cover designs were produced in the Soviet Union during the 1920s by avant-gardists such as Alexander Rodchenko and El Lissitzky. Another highly influential early book cover designer was Aubrey Beardsley, thanks to his striking covers for the first four volumes of The Yellow Book (1894–1895).

In the post-war era, book covers have become vitally important as the book industry has become commercially competitive. Covers now give detailed hints about the style, genre and subject of the book, while many push design to its limit in the hope of attracting sales attention.

This can differ from country to country because of other tastes of the markets. So translated books can also have different book-accessories such as toys belonging to children's books, for example Harry Potter .

The era of internet sales has arguably not diminished the importance of the book cover, as it now continues its role in a two-dimensional digital form, helping to identify and promote books online.

Wraparound covers are also common.


Contamination of historic books

In the 19th century, Paris green and similar arsenic pigments were often used on front and back covers, top, fore and bottom edges, title pages, book decorations, and in printed or manual colorations of illustrations of books. Since February 2024, several German libraries started to block public access to their stock of 19th century books to check for the degree of poisoning. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

See also

Further reading

  1. dbv-Kommission Bestandserhaltung (December 2023). "Information zum Umgang mit potentiell gesundheitsschädigenden Pigmentbestandteilen an historischen Bibliotheksbeständen (hier: arsenhaltige Pigmente)" (PDF). (in German). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2024-03-17. Retrieved 2024-03-17. (6 pages)
  2. "Arsenbelastete Bücher" [Arsen contaminated books]. (in German). Universität Bielefeld. 2024. Archived from the original on 2024-03-11. Retrieved 2024-03-06.
  3. "Werke aus dem 19. Jahrhundert: Arsenverdacht – Unibibliothek überprüft 15.000 Bücher". (in German). 2024-03-06. Archived from the original on 2024-03-17. Retrieved 2024-03-06.
  4. dbv-Kommission Bestandserhaltung (2024-02-29). "Aktuelles: Information zum Umgang mit potentiell gesundheitsschädigenden Pigmentbestandteilen, wie arsenhaltigen Pigmenten, an historischen Bibliotheksbeständen". (in German). Retrieved 2024-03-06.
  5. Pilz, Michael (2024-03-04). "Warum von grünen Büchern eine Gefahr ausgeht" [Why green books are dangerous]. Kultur > Arsen. Welt (in German). Archived from the original on 2024-03-04. Retrieved 2024-03-17.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Book</span> Medium for recording information in the form of writing or images

A book is a medium for recording information in the form of writing or images. Books are typically composed of many pages, bound together and protected by a cover. Modern bound books were preceded by many other written mediums, such as the codex and the scroll. The book publishing process is the series of steps involved in their creation and dissemination.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Codex</span> Historical ancestor of the modern book

The codex was the historical ancestor of the modern book. Instead of being composed of sheets of paper, it used sheets of vellum, papyrus, or other materials. The term codex is often used for ancient manuscript books, with handwritten contents. A codex, much like the modern book, is bound by stacking the pages and securing one set of edges by a variety of methods over the centuries, yet in a form analogous to modern bookbinding. Modern books are divided into paperback and those bound with stiff boards, called hardbacks. Elaborate historical bindings are called treasure bindings. At least in the Western world, the main alternative to the paged codex format for a long document was the continuous scroll, which was the dominant form of document in the ancient world. Some codices are continuously folded like a concertina, in particular the Maya codices and Aztec codices, which are actually long sheets of paper or animal skin folded into pages. In Japan, concertina-style codices called orihon developed during the Heian period (794–1185) were made of paper.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hardcover</span> Book bound with a rigid protective cover

A hardcover, hard cover, or hardback book is one bound with rigid protective covers. It has a flexible, sewn spine which allows the book to lie flat on a surface when opened. Modern hardcovers may have the pages glued onto the spine in much the same way as paperbacks. Following the ISBN sequence numbers, books of this type may be identified by the abbreviation Hbk.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dust jacket</span> Paper wrapper for a book

The dust jacket of a book is the detachable outer cover, usually made of paper and printed with text and illustrations. This outer cover has folded flaps that hold it to the front and back book covers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Flip book</span> Optical toy

A flip book, flipbook, flicker book, or kineograph is a booklet with a series of images that very gradually change from one page to the next, so that when the pages are viewed in quick succession, the images appear to animate by simulating motion or some other change. Often, flip books are illustrated books for children, but may also be geared toward adults and employ a series of photographs rather than drawings. Flip books are not always separate books, but may appear as an added feature in ordinary books or magazines, frequently using the page corners. Software packages and websites are also available that convert digital video files into custom-made flip books.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Title page</span> Page at or near the front of a book on which its publishing information is displayed

The title page of a book, thesis or other written work is the page at or near the front which displays its title, subtitle, author, publisher, and edition, often artistically decorated.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Book design</span> Styling, formatting and designing the layout of a books contents

Book design is the art of incorporating the content, style, format, design, and sequence of the various components and elements of a book into a coherent unit. In the words of renowned typographer Jan Tschichold (1902–1974), book design, "though largely forgotten today, [relies upon] methods and rules upon which it is impossible to improve, [and which] have been developed over centuries. To produce perfect books, these rules have to be brought back to life and applied". Richard Hendel describes book design as "an arcane subject", and refers to the need for a context to understand what that means.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Treasure binding</span> Luxurious book cover using metalwork in gold or silver, jewels, or ivory

A treasure binding or jewelled bookbinding is a luxurious book cover using metalwork in gold or silver, jewels, or ivory, perhaps in addition to more usual bookbinding material for book covers such as leather, velvet, or other cloth. The actual bookbinding technique is the same as for other medieval books, with the folios, normally of vellum, stitched together and bound to wooden cover boards. The metal furnishings of the treasure binding are then fixed, normally by tacks, onto these boards. Treasure bindings appear to have existed from at least Late Antiquity, though there are no surviving examples from so early, and Early Medieval examples are very rare. They were less used by the end of the Middle Ages, but a few continued to be produced in the West even up to the present day, and many more in areas where Eastern Orthodoxy predominated. The bindings were mainly used on grand illuminated manuscripts, especially gospel books designed for the altar and use in church services, rather than study in the library.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paris green</span> Highly toxic arsenic-based pigment

Paris green is an arsenic-based organic pigment. As a green pigment it is also known as Mitis green, Schweinfurt green, Sattler green, emerald, or Vienna green, Emperor green or Mountain green. It is a highly toxic emerald-green crystalline powder that has been used as a rodenticide and insecticide, and also as a pigment. It was manufactured in 1814 to be a pigment to make a vibrant green paint, and was used by many notable painters in the 19th century. The color of Paris green is said to range from a pale blue green when very finely ground, to a deeper green when coarsely ground. Due to the presence of arsenic, the pigment is extremely toxic and in paintings, the color can degrade quickly.

<i>De re metallica</i> 1556 book on mining and metallurgy by Georgius Agricola

De re metallica is a book in Latin cataloguing the state of the art of mining, refining, and smelting metals, published a year posthumously in 1556 due to a delay in preparing woodcuts for the text. The author was Georg Bauer, whose pen name was the Latinized Georgius Agricola. The book remained the authoritative text on mining for 180 years after its publication. It was also an important chemistry text for the period and is significant in the history of chemistry.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dos-à-dos binding</span> Type of book binding

In bookbinding, a dos-à-dos binding is a binding structure in which two separate books are bound together such that the fore edge of one is adjacent to the spine of the other, with a shared lower board between them serving as the back cover of both. When shelved, the spine of the book to the right faces outward, while the spine of the book to the left faces the back of the shelf; the text of both works runs head-to-tail.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Irma Boom</span> Dutch graphic designer

Irma Boom is a Dutch graphic designer who specializes in bookmaking. Boom has been described as The Queen of Books, having created over 300 books and is well reputed for her artistic autonomy within her field. Her bold experimental approach to her projects often challenges the convention of traditional books in both physical design and printed content.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Extraordinary State Commission</span>

The Extraordinary State Commission for the Establishment and Investigation of the Atrocities of the German Fascist Invaders and Their Accomplices and the Damage They Caused to Citizens, Collective Farms, Public Organizations, State Enterprises and Institutions of the USSR (ChGK) was the state commission of the USSR during the Great Patriotic War. The commission was formed by the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on November 2, 1942.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bookbinding</span> Process of assembling a book

Bookbinding is the process of building a book, usually in codex format, from an ordered stack of paper sheets with one's hands and tools, or in modern publishing, by a series of automated processes. Firstly, one binds the sheets of papers along an edge with a thick needle and strong thread. One can also use loose-leaf rings, binding posts, twin-loop spine coils, plastic spiral coils, and plastic spine combs, but they last for a shorter time. Next, one encloses the bound stack of paper in a cover. Finally, one places an attractive cover onto the boards, and features the publisher's information and artistic decorations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Book illustration</span> Illustration which appears in books

The illustration of manuscript books was well established in ancient times, and the tradition of the illuminated manuscript thrived in the West until the invention of printing. Other parts of the world had comparable traditions, such as the Persian miniature. Modern book illustration comes from the 15th-century woodcut illustrations that were fairly rapidly included in early printed books, and later block books. Other techniques such as engraving, etching, lithography and various kinds of colour printing were to expand the possibilities and were exploited by such masters as Daumier, Doré or Gavarni.

Books LLC is an American publisher and a book sales club based in Memphis, Tennessee. Its primary work is collecting Wikipedia and Wikia articles and selling them as printed and downloadable books.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Conservation and restoration of books, manuscripts, documents, and ephemera</span> Activity to extend the life of historical materials

The conservation and restoration of books, manuscripts, documents, and ephemera is an activity dedicated to extending the life of items of historical and personal value made primarily from paper, parchment, and leather. When applied to cultural heritage, conservation activities are generally undertaken by a conservator. The primary goal of conservation is to extend the lifespan of the object as well as maintaining its integrity by keeping all additions reversible. Conservation of books and paper involves techniques of bookbinding, restoration, paper chemistry, and other material technologies including preservation and archival techniques.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">George A. Baer</span> German/Swiss/American bookbinder

George A. Baer was a German/Swiss/American bookbinder. He specialized in fine leather bindings, including inlays and gold tooling.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fragmentology (manuscripts)</span>

Fragmentology is the study of surviving fragments of manuscripts. A manuscript fragment may consist of whole or partial leaves, typically made of parchment, conjugate pairs or sometimes gatherings of a parchment book or codex, or parts of single-leaf documents such as notarial acts. They are commonly found in book bindings, especially printed books from the 15th to the 17th centuries, used in a variety of ways such as wrappers or covers for the book, as endpapers, or cut into pieces and used to reinforce the binding. In other non-Western manuscript cultures, fragments of paper manuscripts and other materials, takes place beside parchment, including board covers that many times reused written paper.

<i>The Legend of Zelda Encyclopedia</i> Book by Nintendo

The Legend of Zelda Encyclopedia is a book about Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda video game series. It is published in English by Dark Horse Comics and is the third book in the "Goddess Collection" trilogy, following the publication of Hyrule Historia and Art & Artifacts. The encyclopedia was released to celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda series. It provides a detailed compendium of the numerous fictional characters, creatures and items found within the first 30 years of the Zelda game series. It was published as a standard edition with a blue cover and a deluxe edition with a gold NES cartridge design in June 2018.