WHY I HATE DUST JACKETS
Hate is a strong word.
I penned this as a part of this continuing Savas Beatie blog series, to better document something that horrifies Ted and many other bibliophiles deeply. Ted was nice enough to ask me to compose a short piece explaining my hatred for dust jackets and perhaps shed some light on why exactly I have thrown away or burned almost 1,000 of them during the last four or so decades.
Ten years ago, I owned more than 1,000 Civil War books. This is a sizable number in this hobby, but many others have libraries many times larger. Many of these titles are probably the same ones you own, but on my bookshelves you would not have so readily recognized them. Each was stripped of its dust jacket within minutes of being in my possession. This is a binding policy I have kept since I was very young.
I don’t know when exactly my dissatisfaction with “the dust jacket” began, but for as long as I can remember I took it off as soon as I bought a book clothed in one.
When Savas Beatie published my set of Georgia Rosters for the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 11th Georgia Infantry Regiments in 2018, one of the first things Ted asked me about during the design phase was about dust jackets. I think he was surprised when I said I did not want any. I remember suggesting to Ted something along the lines of, “I want them to look like Broadfoot books. Plain and simple.”
I have always thought, and I still think, there is something elegant about that look. Luckily for me, Ted agreed and produced a nice-looking set of rosters books, gray with dark maroon stamping.
I think at its core my predilection is just a matter of handling preference. I never liked how the dust jacket just slid off the book so easily in the first place and, for that matter, I never liked that it was a separate thing at all. They were always in the way. I bought one thing, now I have two things, one is a book and the other is this flappy, clackety, shiny paper cover with some pictures on it.
What a pain in the ass.
To me, a dust jacket is advertising, and once I have bought the book, any need for additional advertisement between that book and I has ended, so the dust jacket goes away.
In the summer I throw them away; in the winter, I burn them in the fireplace. This is done without exception, no matter how much I like the design of the jacket. As a product of one of oldest and best art schools in the country, I have definite opinions about covers. Love them or hate them, they all have to go.
Jim Hessler’s Sickles at Gettysburg had about as good a jacket cover as one is likely to see, and though that excellent book retains a proud place on my bookshelf, the awesome dust cover does not.
Yes, yes, I admit of course that a dust cover does provide some protection for a book, but I am not sure what people are protecting them from? Decently bound books are tougher than you think. I have always been of the opinion that my books only have to live as long as I do. I don’t overtly abuse them and not being a total heathen, it’s not as if I’d rip the cover off the Book of Kells or anything. I don’t coddle books though, in most cases, let’s just say my books lead a farmer’s life—they work hard but tend to live a long time.
I always laugh when people sell their books with the description “Mint condition. From a smoke and pet free home.” Good for you.
My bookshelf sale would say “Free. Smells like smoke, pizza and booze.”
Now that Ted has his hands on my manuscript for the 59th Georgia Infantry roster, it looks like we will have a fifth book to add to this set, for which I am extremely thankful. Once again, I promise not to encumber you with things like adjectives and questionable cover art choices.
There will be no dust cover. : -)