Thursday, May 26, 2011

1829. Original dust jacket?

Heller, Joseph. Muggendorf und seine Umgebung oder die fränkische Schweiz. Ein Handbuch für Wanderer in dieser Gegend. Bamberg: J. C. Dresch, 1829. 8vo, pp. xiv, 214, with 2 engraved plates of views (with their original tissue guards) and 1 large folding engraved map at end. [Cambridge University Library]

Following description from Quaritch catalog Dec. 2009.

[A fine copy printed on fine paper; bound in the publisher’s de-luxe binding of richly gilt and blind tooled half calf and yellow boards, the boards printed with engraved illustrations incorporating the title of the book, gilt edges, a stunning binding, preserved in contemporary ‘dust jacket’ of coarse blue diced wrappers, with gilt (now nearly all oxidized) vine border on front and back wrapper, the flaps are cut in an ondulating design, the spine and extremities of the dust jacket are rubbed, and there is a very small piece missing on the front wrapper lower left corner, but generally in very good condition. Small ink stamp of ‘Sammlung Bauer, Bamberg’ on back blue endpaper. ...

This is a very fine copy in its first binding, a luxury binding, supplied by the publisher for the few copies printed on fine paper (Velinpapier), and more unusually it is still with its corresponding ‘dust jacket’ of blue decorated paper. ... The dust jacket has no text but fits like a glove. There can be no doubt, especially when considering the freshness of the binding, that the dust jacket was issued together with this copy by the book’s publisher.

Dust jackets of such early date are very uncommon and very rare in the market.]

Although the binding is original issue, the jacket could have been added later. But several factors besides the near pristine condition of the binding suggest the jacket is original too. A deluxe binding would logically have called for the protection of a jacket or box, both of which publishers were issuing by the late 1820s. The scalloped flaps are similar to those noted on other German jackets of the 19th century. The lack of lettering on the jacket was common on publisher’s jackets in the 19th century, as were unlettered slipcases and sheaths, especially German ones. Even if not publisher issued, this jacket clearly was designed specifically for this book as the printed areas fit precisely within the perimeter of the boards. The jacket also was precision cut. It was not homemade.

It is possible that an owner ordered this jacket after purchase from a printer or binder who sized, cut and folded it to fit the book "like a glove" and decorated it with gilt. If so, the wear on the jacket and the lack of wear on the binding suggest that the jacket was added very soon after purchase, not decades later by a collector.

If original issue, which seems as likely as not, this would be the earliest known example of a flap-style jacket issued by a publisher, and probably the earliest publishers’ jacket overall. The next earliest flap-style jackets are from 1836 and 1839, both also issued on German books bound in decorated paper boards. The earliest known sealed wrapping jacket is on a copy of a British annual, Friendship’s Offering for 1830, which was issued late in 1829, probably in November or December. The Muggendorf probably appeared earlier in 1829 than that. If so, this would be the earliest known publishers’ jacket of any type, although proving beyond doubt that it was publisher-issued is probably impossible.

[Photographs by William Hale, Rare Books Department, Cambridge University Library]

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