Let me set up Lewis Carroll’s contribution to our bookshelves and libraries by telling what led up to Carroll’s invention.
In the early part of the 19th century books were published and sold in unbound sheets. If they were bound, it was done by the bookseller or at customers request. As binding increased, dust jackets, AKA book jackets, dust wrappers, dust covers, came into being. But they were nothing like todays covers. They were wrapped around the book. One had to slice it open, then the cover was discarded. The oldest dust jacket dates to 1829. If you find a book with it’s still intact wrapper, it is either a forgery, or you are soon to be rich.
The jackets with the flaps that fold in came into being in the 1850’s, though possibly earlier as no publisher cared to keep track of such arcane things. By the 1880’s the jackets were in common use, but again, most people tossed them out with the trash. I have books with dust jackets, though I did take one off my “Total Baseball Encyclopedia” because Barry Bonds was on the cover. I inserted the jacket folded up inside the book. No Dodger fan wants to see pictures of Barry.
Here is something for you to ponder regarding these throwaway jackets. A first edition of Fitzgerald’s “Great Gatsby” is worth about $1,000. If jacket is intact it goes from $20 to $30, 000. By the time you find one the price will have gone up of course.
And we have Lewis Carroll to thank for an innovative practice common today. Whether you have a shelf of books or a small library, you easily find the book you are looking for because the title is written on the spine. It wasn’t always so. As you can imagine it would be difficult to find that special tome. I read Lewis Carroll came up with the idea, but I could not confirm it, so I contacted the Lewis Carroll Society yesterday and this morning Edward Wakeling, editor of “Lewis Carroll’s Diaries” responded. I will quote from his response: