Dust-jackets for Rossetti’s “Speaking Likenesses”

A guest post and a further request for help from Mark Godburn, author of “Nineteenth-Century Dust-Jackets” (Private Libraries Association & Oak Knoll Press, 2016).

I am looking for corroborating evidence that Christina Rossetti’s Speaking Likenesses (London: Macmillan, 1874) was issued with two different dust-jackets — one for each of its two bindings.

One of the jackets is well known — printed on light blue paper in the then-common title-page format — with half a dozen or more examples recorded.  The other jacket — plain transparent waxed paper — has one recorded example that I know of.

Speaking Likenesses has an ornate first-state binding and a plain second-state binding. Years ago I heard a claim that the printed jackets were issued on the plain bindings, and transparent jackets on the ornate bindings.  I have seen the printed jackets on the plain bindings several times, and I now have a copy of the ornate binding with a transparent jacket that seems to be original — uniformly cut, correct flaps, unworn binding.

I am looking for additional examples of both jackets — especially the transparent — for further corroboration.

Speaking Likenesses would not be the only 1870s children’s book with both printed and transparent jackets. Kate Greenaway’s Under the Window (London, Routledge) has numerous surviving examples of both types of jackets on its first two states issued in 1878-1879.

One problem with trying to verify the priority of early jackets is the modern practice of switching jackets from later editions/states to firsts.  Recently I heard of a printed Rossetti jacket on an ornate first-state binding in a university collection.  This would have been at odds with the claimed priority of the Rossetti jackets, but it turned out that the binding was so heavily worn and soiled that the jacket clearly had been switched from another copy — no doubt from a plain second-state binding — by a dealer or collector trying to juice a first-state copy’s value.  This is one reason why jackets should not be switched — doing so can muddle or even destroy the bibliographic record, especially on 19th-century books that don’t have dozens of surviving jackets to make their priority clear.

Any sightings or comments, please email me at markrgodburn@gmail.com. Thank you.

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