Thursday, March 26, 2015


...The kind of covers you may buy a book to get.

Despite my limited space I have a few. One book below was bought for its cover and illos, the Ibex story; one excellent series, published by Putnam's in Boston in the  early years of the last century, is made up of good natural history books, but I started collecting them only after I bought three separately, and realized that the volumes I nostalgically remembered from my childhood days at the Ames Free Library in Easton, Mass. all had gilt images embossed on their covers.

As you can easily see, they were not limited to fancy or small press books-- popular subjects like big game hunting, children's books, light natural history, and fishing all were decorated with gilt- embosssed figures.  Look at Abel Chapman's Savage Sudan, which I bought for fifty cents in Magdalena (go to abeBooks for more realistic prices), which has a golden warthog; The Tribes on my Frontier, "EHA's" accounts of birds and beasts who were human commensals in Colonial India, and doubtless still are today (those little things are what Kipling called "muskrats" in "Rikki Tikki Tavi", a kind of smelly house shrew), and the Ibex in a slightly sub- Seton but beautifully illustrated biography of that animal. The Rod in India, which I got from the late Datus Proper in Bozeman and which contains one of my favorite chapter titles anywhere, the nearly self- parodic "Circumventing the Mahseer", also has one of my favorite cover emblems, said mahseer hanging from a tree.

The second edition of Patterson's Man Eaters of Tsavo has a splendid but unexplained sabertooth; John Lockwood Kipling, father of Rudyard and the keeper of the "Treasure House" museum in Kim, has a rather more understandable elephant.
Sometimes the bindings, if accurate, convey coded info-- the open double gun from Bogardus shows a breechloader, so it cannot have been published much earlier than 1875; some have more interesting images on their spines than on their covers; sometimes the covers have no figure, merely border designs,  but are still attractive; sometimes the images are more dramatic or cluttered than would be thought seemly today. Look at that smoke coming out of Roosevelt's gun, or the feathers drifting down after the Peregrine's strike on Michell's Art and Practice of Hawking. Though none are as startling as the PAPER dust jacket of  my copy of The Peregrine's Saga.  Despite Williamson's Fascist politics, I think its cheerful ferocity owes more to the fact that the artist, Tunnicliffe, watched plenty of Peregrines!

 And my favorite? Though the English often made better and definitely did more, the best I know is this buck, for American Henry van Dyke's Still Hunting, handsome and virtually 3- D.


Lucas Machias said...

I love those covers. Good luck seeing a new one today.

Love the Tunnicliffe. New to me.

The buck, for American Henry van Dyke's Still Hunting is more elk with the mane and antlers but still cool.

Chad Love said...

Love the book posts, Steve. And yep, I've got books that I bought specifically for the cover or dust jacket.

Lucas Machias said...

It is funny you mentioned covers as I was skimming

last night and saw the authors prior book was on

book cover design.

They may be of interest to you.

The nicest embossed cover I remember is

Very tactile and 3-D. I assume it was none with a press and I often complained that other covers should as good. It didn't seem expensive. I think this copy in pic looks wore out. I remember the copy I saw as crisp.

more pix none of which do it justice.

Reid Farmer said...

Beautiful stuff

Anonymous said...

DAMMIT MAN! There's a whole nuther slew of books I mercifully previously never knew existed before, that I'm sure now that I do, I could never hope to afford!.....L.B.