A book cover is a 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 out-dated forms such as the nineteenth-century "paper-boards" and the even more antiquated hand-binding.
Before the early nineteenth century, books were hand-bound using heavy materials such as wood, leather, gold, silver and jewels. For hundreds of years, book bindings had functioned as a protective device for the expensively printed 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-colour 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 Arts and Crafts
and Art Nouveau
movements at the turn of the twentieth century stimulated a modern renaissance in book cover design that soon began to infiltrate the growing mass book industry through the more progressive publishers in Europe, London and New York. Some of the first radically modern cover designs were produced in the Soviet Union during the 1920s by avant-gardists such as Alexandr Rodchenko
and El Lissitzky
. Another highly influential early book cover designer was Aubrey Beardsley
, thanks to his striking covers for the first four volumes of the Yellow Book
In the post-war era, book covers have become vitally important as the book industry has become commercially competitive. Covers now give detailed hints about the style, genre and subject of the book, while many push design to its limit in the hope of attracting sales attention. The era of Internet sales has arguably not diminished the importance of the book cover, as it now continues its role in a two-dimensional digital form, helping to identify and promote books online.Most modern published books will be available within the public library sector and it has become essential to cover the cover of paperback books with a self-adhesive cover most noticably the Rhino II cover which extends the life of the book.
- Front cover contents may usually be:
- For novels, the novel title in large latters, author name, tagline and symbol of publisher (in corner)
- Back cover contents may usually be:
- For novels, a back cover text or teaser that gives a hint of the story in an attractive way.