Makes Books Last Longer

Top Reasons For Book Covers

This is more than likely something that you do not think about too often, but what is the reason and purpose of book covers? We would be most familiar with hardcovers and paperbacks but there are many types of alternatives, additions and older methods to these such as ring binding, hand binding etc.

  • To sell more books through imaginative, interesting and creative design.
  • To describe what the book is about with the help of a relevant title, picture, text or a combination of all three.
  • To attract people’s attention amongst a shop or library full of books and to entice them to pick it up.
  • To protect the books pages from damage and to bind the book.

However, this was not always the case and things have changed dramatically since the first books were created and printed because of cheaper and more accessible materials. Originally the sole purpose of a book cover was as a protective cover and to bind the pages of the book.

The History

When we think of the oldest books, we generally think of medieval manuscripts. Thankfully today there are still some preserved examples of these books such as The Book of Kells. These types of luxury medieval manuscripts, from throughout the middle ages, more often than not were spiritual and religious writings which would have been respected and treasured. Materials such as leather, gold and silver would often have been used to bind and cover these manuscripts in order to protect them. It was not only the decorative contents of the books that they were trying to protect but also the expensive handmade pages themselves.

In the 1820’s things began to change dramatically in the book binding and covering industry. The introduction of mechanical book binding as well as the availability and affordability of materials such as cloth and paper made books a lot cheaper. Now that books were no longer excessively time consuming and expensive to make it was no longer required to use handmade expensive covers to protect them. So in turn covers became cheaper to produce and print.

All the new technologies in the book printing industry resulted in creativity becoming more frequent on book covers. It was now that the book cover began to become more than a protective cover and started to incorporate art and design. The late 1800’s and early 1900’s saw cover design become more widespread in the industry. By the 1920’s, book covers had become very important as the book industry began to get more commercial and also more competitive. It was necessary in order to make your book stand out amongst the rest. The genre and subject of books was now too being incorporated too.

The Dust Jacket

The dust jacket as we know it now, was very different to the dust jacket of the mid 1800’s to early 1900’s. It was almost considered a wrapping paper and would have been ripped off by the owner as soon as they got their new book home. They would have been fairly basic and just had some text or a simple image on them. In the early 1900’s the dust jacket evolved developed flaps. They now had printed titles and designs on them and were kept on the books instead of thrown away. We would consider dust jackets to be quite flimsy, although collectable books with dust jackets on them are a lot more valuable than those without. This is not only because collectors want books as close to their original state as possible, but also because the jackets generally keep books in much better condition than those without.


Since the very first books were made, we have used covers to protect them. The availability of books may no longer be restricted to the wealthy but they can still be very expensive. Books in the past had very strong, well-made covers and were also well looked after and carefully used. Covers nowadays are often not strong enough to protect our books so we have to add our own protective covers to ensure that they last.


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Ballywaltrim - Business Centre
Boghall Rd, Bray,
Co. Wicklow, Ireland