By Martin Salisbury
200 pages, hardcover, $39.95
Published by Thames & Hudson
Who would have thought that the colorful book jackets that we often see on bookshelves and in bookstores everywhere started as dull paper wrappings? Before the 1900s, book jackets were known as “dust wrappers,” or plain paper that protected books from the dust and dirt of the city right up to the point of purchase—to be thrown away to reveal the leather bindings beneath.
This changed in the 1920s when publishers realized that a book’s cover had the potential to titillate, entice and tell a story through visual metaphor. It became a marketing tool for both artists and writers—one that would change the way books look forever.
In The Illustrated Dust Jacket: 1920–1970, Martin Salisbury honors the dust jacket of the era before the digital age, uncovering beautiful works across various popular genres while detailing the work of notable artists at the time, such as Edward Bawden, John Minton and Ronald Searle in the United Kingdom and Edward Gorey, Ben Shahn and George Salter in the United States. Salisbury’s eye for detail is impeccable, and I found myself reading the book almost cover to cover as he brings life and interest to the subject matter—even in the captions accompanying each image (371 illustrations in all!).
While at a quick glance, the book offers a feast for the eyes in terms of stylistic range, what stood out is the creativity and imagination displayed by artists who rose to meet the challenges posed by the format and subject matter of this particular art form—elevating the ubiquitous dust jacket from necessity to art. —Amy Ng