Never judge a book by its cover

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Jerry-Myers_12_26Are you one of those readers that judge a book by its cover?  Well most people are.  Let us set aside what the book itself is about; what the story is about, even the genera is of no concern when it comes to what is on the book cover.  What is the book jacket?  It is advertisement for the book, clear and simple.

Most authors are never really concerned by the cover art, and layout of the jacket until the writing is done and the book is ready for publication.   In the last part of the 19th century book binders would only put the title on the cover, and the Author’s name went on the spine of the book.  It was not until the 1940’s that books started to get book jackets.  Before this a poster was usually displayed with a printed page or two from the book.

The book jacket was a poster paper book covering that folded around the book and contained the cover art with title and author, with a teaser on the flap, and on the spine title and author with either a review of the story or comments on the back panel and author bio on the back flap.  The flap was that part of the jacket that folded around the ends and essentially held the jacket on the book.

This added panache of marketing did several things to the bookstore selling methodology.  The book buyer was now less dependent on the bookstore staff or the proprietors to find a particular book.  The buyer could now tell at a glance what the book was generally about and who authored the book.  The art work in most cases reflects the spirit of the story.

My first jacketed hardcover was Robert Lewis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” with a painting of Jim Hocking tied to Long John Silver by a rope leash about Jim’s waist and a Parrot perched on Long John’s shoulder.  I had my choice that day, between Mark Twain and Herman Melville.  “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” had a pain jacket with just the title, and “Moby Dick” just showed a small painting of a white whale.  So the Pirates won out.

They were all classic adventure tales, but what I did not understand at the time was that I had fallen for the artwork on the cover and not the stories themselves.  Not long after I was able to see Disney’s film adaptation.  What I now realize was that large portions of the novel had been compressed or left out.  Ben Gunn’s story had been compressed and the reason that Ben had moved Flint’s treasure was never really explained in the film version.  Over the following years I have learned, and passed on to young readers is that if you want to really want to get into a story you have to read the novel or book, not just get hooked on the cover of a book, and you should never judge a book by its cover.

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