Wedding Jackets | Newberry

Wedding Jackets

I hope you’ve been paying attention, and recall what I have said about dust jackets. Those are the paper coatings on the outside of hardback books, which for some reason many of you take off and then put back on the book upside-down. Sometimes we catch this, and sometimes we don’t, in which case the price winds up in the lower lefthand corner of the last page of the book. This usually doesn’t matter until the customer gets it home, since the customer assumed the jacket was on the right way up anyhow, and can laugh cheerfully at our mutual mistake. At least no one has ever come in to get money back saying “Hey, this is printed upside-down!”, though it’s…where were we?

There are still people who throw these jackets away, so the shelves are a nice, even, neutral color that doesn’t clash with the furniture. This doesn’t matter much in a donated book, though we may price it a little lower than an equally nice copy WITH its jacket. But in collectible books, it can make a huge difference. A LOT more people threw away the jackets in days gone by (the jacket was originally just to keep the dust off the book in the bookstore, and publishers assumed you’d throw it away.) Thus, there are books—works of Hemingway and Fitzgerald come straight to mind—for which the existence of the original jacket can make a valuable book ten times as expensive. Moral: when donating your grandpa’s books, don’t try to make them look better by throwing away that torn old dust jacket. We want it.

There are companies, in fact, which print new jackets for valuable old books which lack them. These are usually easy to spot: paper has changed, ink has changed, and a brand new jacket is going to feel obvious if you pick up a ninety year-old book. It’s there to make the book look nice until you can find a copy with its original jacket. Then you can replace your other copy. Or….

This is another one of those vocabulary blogs. I have a bookselling term to teach you. That term is “married”. My grandfather was looking through books at a garage sale once when he noticed a copy of The Best from Yank with its jacket on it. He already had the book, without a jacket. So he took the jacket. He wasn’t stealing anything, he felt, because he had left the book. He just wanted the jacket to put on his own copy.

A book on which this has been done is described as “married”. Someone has taken a book from one place and a dust jacket from another and joined them together. A bookseller will do this if he has a damaged copy with a nice jacket, and a nice copy without a jacket. By marrying the jacket and the better book, the price can be raised beyond what could have been made by selling the two separately. This is not deceitful or dishonest, and it makes for a nicer collectible.

I don’t know if anyone in the book trade uses the phrase “mixed marriage”, but I have a few of those for sale come July. The man who collected Arthur Upfield mysteries wanted copies in dust jacket. These were hard to come by, because people tend to read mysteries over and over, and the jacket gradually comes to pieces. (Another reason the jackets can be so scarce.)

So he had to marry quite a lot of his books to dust jackets as he found them. He made notes on this, and his notes are interesting reading. This book, he notes, is the 1948 first edition in a 1967 dust jacket. They’re the same size, which is not the case with, say, this one, which is the 1949 British edition with the dust jacket from the 1949 American edition, which is an inch taller than the book. This one’s a little worse: it’s the 1958 American edition in the 1957 British jacket, which is half an inch too short.

He was apparently always looking to make his books complete, because more than one has a note that the book is the 1967 American edition with the 1967 British jacket on it AND the 1967 American jacket over THAT. He had married parts of the American edition, but wasn’t about to toss out the extra jacket. These marriages are bigamous, but if you happen to have Upfield books without jackets, we’ll sure have a bargain for you.

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