Sites we like: The Art of American Book Covers

The first post at The Art of American Book Covers, by Richard Minsky, was made on August 26, so this blog is less than a month old. I regret that I don’t remember who directed me to it, but this blog is so rich in knowledge about techniques of book production that it makes me feel like an absolute novice. The blog will apparently focus on fine books of the nineteenth century. The image above is a detail from a book published by L. C. Page, who it seems offered each of their titles in red, white or blue cloth (wow!). Instead of stamping, a white cloth panel was glued onto the red and blue books. Following is a portion of the blog’s commentary related to this detail, but you should check out Minsky’s blog for the full story:

The panel on the 1906 variant is unusual. The white has a blue-ish cast, and blue is showing through the white where it is rubbed; white is showing through the blue where that is rubbed, and white is showing through the gold where rubbed. It appears as though a white cloth onlay was applied to the cover, which was then stamped with blue, then white, and finally with gold. The details show that the cloth for the panel was applied before the stamping, since the blue and gold both overlap the onlay on both variants.

Why would the stamping be done in white if the cloth were white? One possible answer is that by 1906 opaque white inks were available for the stamping that were not prone to flaking and produced a brighter white than the cloth color. That fails to explain why blue would be stamped under the white.

Regarding white stamping on white cloth, when I published Fantastic Tales by I. U. Tarchetti, translated by Larry Venuti, I put black cloth over black boards. My production manager thought I was crazy. Maybe I was. It’s a nice looking book though (the paper jacket is shown; maybe I will take a photo of the cloth cover later on sometime).

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  1. What a fascinating blog– and Minsky’s wesbite!

  2. Those late 19th century/early 20th century book covers are gorgeous! I remember that my grandparents had a set of children’s books – the yellow, green, etc. books of fairy tales, myths et al which had lovely covers. I remember coloring in the black and white illustrations but didn’t touch the reproductions by Lang and Dulac.

  3. As an addendum to your post and the link to all those fabulous covers, I bought a 1977 Larousse Gastronomique at a garage sale on Saturday. They could have used some advice on book design as the cover is a muddy brown, the cover type is (probably) generic Times Roman and the font that’s used for the inside text gives the pages a crabbed look. But the contents rise about the presentation and I guess that’s what it’s ultimately about.