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. This article is concerned with modern mechanically produced covers.
It seems that the first printer to introduce mechanical book-binding was the printer Jorg Schappf, (from Augusta), in particular the Chiromantia, in 1488. Before the early nineteenth century, books were hand-bound, in the case of luxury medieval manuscripts 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 papers – 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-color lithography, and later, half-tone 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.
- The Book Cover Archive
- Grand Valley State University digital collections – contains photographs of decorated publisher bindings from the 1870s to 1930
- Historical book cover design gallery
- Pulp fiction cover gallery
- The Art of Penguin Science Fiction The history and cover art of science fiction published by Penguin Books from 1935 to the present day
- Thomas Bonn Collection of Publishers Interviews – more than 100 audio interviews with publishers, art directors, etc. on the topic of cover art