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The Illustrated Dust Jacket 1920-1970

Posted on Dec 12, 2017

Martin Salisbury
(Thames and Hudson)

Okay, okay, so this is not *technically* a book about children’s books, though it includes many. BUT anyone interested in children’s literature, and particularly in children’s book illustration, should be interested in everything that Martin Salisbury writes, and I urge you to seek out his other books if you have not already done so.
We find ourselves in a new golden age of children’s literature particularly in terms of illustrated books; not only thanks to picturebooks, but also because of the welcome developments in publishing when it comes to illustrated fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The last few years have really seen an unprecedented resurgence of the “beautiful book”.   This superbly designed book looks back at another golden age in terms of the importance of illustration: the middle decades of the twentieth century, which saw a groundbreaking blossoming of the illustrated, ‘pictorial’ dust jacket. After a comprehensive and fascinating introduction (which includes a section on ‘annuals, children’s and non-fiction’) Salisbury  dedicates the rest of the book to the just over 50 artists who were active in that time in the UK and USA , discussing their life and work and showcasing their work in an impressively curated collection.  While this tome does not focus on children’s illustration, many of the artists included have also made their mark in that field: Tove Jansson, Edward Gorey, Roger Duvoisin, Tomi Ungerer and Edward Ardizzone are all included, though not always because of their children’s illustration work. Others are included specifically because of their work on children’s books, such as Beth and Joe Krush and their work on The Borrowers books.

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Of course, for children’s book enthusiasts, it is a well-known fact that dust jackets often harbour (and hide) many treasures; this book allows readers to understand the development of illustrated jacket as part of a larger movement in publishing, and it is a fascinating read. I will happily spend hours flicking through it, poring over the hundreds of examples showcased within its pages.

This is a book for anyone who loves books as objects, but it will also delight anyone who loves mid-century art and design generally. It is a brilliant way to introduce readers to the creative wonders and subtleties of book design.

It seems an opportune time to remind readers of the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign, spearheaded by Sarah McIntyre. Click on the pencil for an update on the campaign:

 

Source: review copy

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