Oldest book jacket found in the Bodleian

27 April 2009

GP_2920_OS_19_recto_earliest_wrapperThe earliest-known book dust wrapper has been found in the Bodleian collections. Dating from 1829, it protected a finely-bound gift book entitled Friendship's Offering.

The wrapper was discovered by the Bodleian's former Head of Special Collections, Michael Turner, during the 1970s. The wrapper had been separated from its book, and has never been catalogued individually. Scholars are now recognizing this as the earliest known dust jacket.

The cover came to the library in 1877 when the Library bought a collection of book-trade and other ephemera at the auction of Gillyatt Sumner, a Yorkshire antiquary.  Now the dust wrapper is part of a collection of pamphlets based on those bequeathed by Charles Godwyn in 1770 but added to by the Library until the end of the 19th century.

The dust wrapper once enveloped the book completely and was secured with sealing wax, traces of which can still be seen on the Bodleian's original.  Creases at the edges where the paper had been folded indicate the shape of the book it had enclosed.

Several distinctive elements were printed on the dust jacket:  the book's price of 12 shillings; a promotional slogan stating that the volume was ‘elegantly bound’; an advertisement for the first six years of the Friendship series ‘uniformly done up in the improved binding’; and another advertisement for proofs of the engravings in portfolios.

Clive Hurst, Head of Rare Books and Printed Ephemera, Bodleian Library, said: ‘The existence of this book dust wrapper has been known within the Library for some time. It has recently become newsworthy as a result of Mark Godburn’s enquiry after the lost 1833 Keepsake wrapper. We are very pleased that we can provide scholars with such rare finds as this from our collections.’

Media Coverage

Bookmark and Share
Back to top