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Book Collecting Basics: Ditch the Dust Jacket?

By Kristin Masters. Mar 30, 2011. 2:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Book Care

If you’ve ever purchased a hardcover book, you’re probably familiar with the dust jacket or, depending on which side of the pond you are, the dust-wrapper. Indeed, they’ve been around since the 1820’s! These paper coverings are designed to protect a book’s cloth cover as the book travels from the publisher to your bookshelf.

casino_royale_fleming_1stSome readers remove their dust jackets—or even use them as bookmarks! But when it comes to rare books or collectible books, dust jackets should be treated with significant care as they often add significant value to the book.  A rule of thumb applying for many modern first editions is that a dust-jacket, in same condition as the book makes up for 80-90% of the value of the book.

Pristine first editions of Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale in Fine wrapper are being traded above $50,000, while the book without the coveted jacket can be seen for less than $4,000.  First editions such as John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath contain critical information (“First Printing”) on the wrapper, without which the book itself cannot be properly identified anymore.


Dust-jacket Do’s and Don’ts

The primary purpose of the dust jacket is, of course, to protect a collectible book from damage, the very reason you see it vanish first. Here are some tips:
    • Dust-jacket protectors are the best option to protect your dust-jackets from the environment and damage.  Properly applied, they add to “the looks” of the book but most importantly, are a significant shield from permanent damage and, as such will protect the value of your collection.
    • Obtain archival quality dust-jacket protectors and apply them to your dust-jackets.  Your antiquarian bookseller can advise you relative to suitable sources and applications, with or without liner, depending on your dust-jacket.
    • Don’t use scotch tape with your dust-jacket protector or the wrapper itself as residue of non archival tape will permanently damage jacket and book over time.
    • While dust-jacket protectors offer some protection from UV lights, do store books in their dust-jackets away from (direct) sunlight.  Additional and often most attractive protection can be applied with custom made, e.g., clam-shell cases

Facsimile Dust Jackets

Some sellers and collectors add facsimile dust jackets.  Should you?  It depends.

To fulfill its protective role, any blank wrapper of archival paper will serve a good purpose.  A copy of the original dust-jacket, or facsimile will protect just about the same and that should be about where it ends.

A book without the original dust-jacket doesn’t become a book with original dust-jacket by virtue of adding a facsimile.  As long as you are up front about the fact that the facsimile isn’t the “real thing,” and won’t try to create that perception, all should be fine.

Any reputable vendor or collector will clearly mark the facsimile dust-jacket itself as a reproduction to avoid a book being passed on and the last innocent recipient not being able to differentiate it from an original without expert help.

In summary, the dust-jacket is an integral part of the book in your collection and deserves the same care and conservation as the book itself.  Have you been seen without your skin lately?

For more information about book collecting, conservation of books, dust-jackets or your entire collection, contact us for personalized advice, visit our Rare Books Forum or peruse the Rare Books Glossary.



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Kristin Masters
Master Content Brain. You think it, she writes it, no good thought remains unposted. Sprinkles pixie dust on Google+, newsletters, blog, facebook, twitter and just about everything else.

 

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