Leather Bindings, Decorative Dust Jackets and Beyond

While the old adage tells us that we certainly shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, it’s hard to ignore the artistry that goes into binding books and creating dust jacket images that catch the eye and tell a story all their own. Here’s a tour through various types of book covers featured in our upcoming auction of Art, Press & Illustrated Books
Intricately Crafted Leather Bindings
Lot 36: George Barbier’s own copy of Vies Imaginaires by Marcel Schwob, with illustrations by Barbier and F.L. Schmied, Paris, 1929. Estimate $20,000 to $30,000. 
George Barbier’s livre d’artiste was bound by Georges Cretté, successor to the great Marius Michel. The binding features an Art Deco design of intertwining gold and silver fillet diamonds, white morocco inlaid centers and dotted shadows which are repeated on the spine. All edges are trimmed and gilt, with white morocco doublures with silver, gold, and bronze zig-zag diamond design and rose silk moiré endleaves.
 Lot 240: François-Louis Schmied’s illustrated version of René de Chateaubriand’s Les Adventures du Dernier Abencérage, with 37 color wood engravings by Schmied, Paris, 1930. Estimate $5,000 to $7,500. 
 
This contemporary brown morocco Art Deco binding by Jean Lambert was created after a design by François-Louis Schmied. The covers are decorated with horizontal gilt fillets and dots, central rectangular panels in coral, green and brown morocco inlaid geometric designs, with a gilt-lettered spine, silk moiré endleaves and calf doublures.
Lot 85: Maurice Denis, La Vie de Frère Genièvre, translated by André Pératé, Paris, 1923. Estimate $600 to $900. 
Custom-bound in green morocco leather with gold and silver Art Deco decorations and watered silk endpapers, by Lagrand. 
 
 
Lot 188: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese, illustrated and hand-colored by Stuart Mason, London, 1900/. Estimate $1,500 to $2,500. 
 
Bound in plum morocco leather with intertwining border design in gold and green by Andrée M. Clark. 
 
 
The Era of the Dust Jacket
 
Beginning in the 1900s, art migrated from the book binding to the dust jacket, primarily since dust jackets were cheaper to produce than intricate bindings. Today, dust jacket art has become incredibly recognizable, and important and collectable texts are often valued much higher if their dust jackets remain intact. 
 

 

 

 
Lot 97: Collection of 84 Weimar era Book Jackets from 1926-32. Estimate $1,500 to $2,500.
This collection of Weimar-era book jackets demonstrates a range of techniques showcasing the height of German avant-garde graphic design including photomontage, illustration, color printing, type design and layout. 
 

 

Lot 143:  Rockwell Kent’s illustrated edition of Melville’s Moby Dick, from a group of 3 volumes. Estimate $600 to $900. 
 
At the time of publication of Rockwell Kent’s illustrated version, both Moby Dick and author Herman Melville had fallen into relative obscurity. Originally a commercial failure, Moby Dick is now often touted as the Great American Novel, a position of popularity that was certainly helped by the attention Kent’s illustrated edition garnered.
Non-traditional Book Covers and Bindings
Occasionally, bindings are a little more outside-the-box, blurring the line of how we traditionally view books. 
Lot 161: Heinrich Harrer, Seven Years in Tibet, number 43 of 300 copies signed by the author, Limited Editions Club, New York, 1993. Estimate $1,000 to $1,500. 
 
This Limited Editions Club version of Heinrich Harrer’s autobiographical travel book is bound in imported Indian white silk with a Tibetan good luck charm blind-stamped on the front cover, then further encased in a protective cloth wrap nestled between two carved magnolia panels with straps. 
Lot 108: H. Boylston Dummer, The Robin Book, singed twice by Dummer, Rockport, circa 1925. Estimate $300 to $400. 
 
H. Boylston Dummer’s illustrated children’s books toe the line between book and toy.

 

Lot 109: H. Boylston Dummer, Santa Claus Aeroplane Book, two versions, New York, Rockport, Cape Ann, circa 1925. Estimate $500 to $750. 
Lot 21: Edwin A. Abbott, Flatland, Arion Press, San Francisco, 1980. Estimate $1,000 to $1,500. 
 
Edwin A. Abbott’s experimental satirical novel is printed in accordion format and housed in a futuristic aluminum binding that sits in a top-latched metal frame. 
Lot 33: Enrico Baj, La Cravate ne vaut pas une médaille, color lithographs with silkscreen and collage, Geneva and Milan, 1972. Estimate $2,500 to $3,500. 
 
The slipcase to Enrico Baj’s work is mounted with a 3-dimensional lego brick and metal multiple signed by the artist. 
 
 
 
For a look at more bindings and dust jackets, have a look at the complete catalogue