French Semi-Transparent Dust-Jackets

1891A guest post from Mark Godburn

I would like to hear from anyone with knowledge of the common 19th and early 20th century French books in bound wrappers which are often found with semi-transparent dust-jackets. These jackets typically have tri-folded French flaps.

It had always been my understanding that these jackets were original issue. I have seen them on French books as early as the 1820s and 1830s. Most American and British dealers I spoke to also thought these jackets were original issue.

However, when I was researching my book, “Nineteenth-Century Dust-Jackets” (2016), the Paris book scout Martin Stone insisted to me that nearly all such jackets were later additions by French antiquarian book dealers, not original issue.  He said he had observed French dealers adding such jackets to old, wrapper-bound French books for decades, and that they continue to do so to this day.

So I again consulted with experts in American and British bookselling, and they all deferred to Martin, saying he was the one who would know, based on his years in the Paris trade.

There are exceptions, of course, such as an 1887 Zola book I saw in bound wrappers which had a printed opaque jacket that matched the printing on the binding; this jacket was obviously original issue.  Other exceptions would include some limited edition French books in bound wrappers which were issued with semi-transparent jackets over the wrappers circa 1900.

I would like to hear from anyone with thoughts on the origin of the semi-transparent French jackets. Email me at  My thanks to Laurence Worms for posting this.

Mark Godburn, North Canaan, CT, USA.

About Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

Laurence Worms has owned and run Ash Rare Books since 1971. He represented the antiquarian book trade on the (British) National Book Committee from 1993 to 2002 and has been six times an elected member of the Council of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association. He was largely responsible for drafting the Association’s Code of Good Practice first introduced in 1997 (and its recent update), served as Honorary Secretary of the Association from 1998 to 2001 and as President from 2011 to 2013. He is a former member of the Council of the Bibliographical Society and continues to serve on the Council of the London Topographical Society. He writes and lectures on various aspects of the history of the book and map trades, and has lectured at the universities of Cambridge, London, Reading and Sheffield, as well as at the Bibliographical Society, the Royal Geographical Society, the Warburg Institute, the National Library of Scotland and at Gresham College and Stationers' Hall. Published work includes the compilation of fourteen ‘lives’ for the “Oxford Dictionary of National Biography”, a number of articles for “The Oxford Companion to the Book” and the chapter on early English maps and atlases for the fourth volume of “The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain”. Essays on the British map trade are also appearing in “The History of Cartography” published by the University of Chicago Press. His long-awaited “British Map Engravers”, co-written with Ashley Baynton-Williams, was published to critical acclaim in 2011. He also contributed the numerous biographical notes to Peter Barber’s hugely successful “London : A History in Maps”, co-published by the British Library and the London Topographical Society in 2012.
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