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.

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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2 Responses to Dust-jackets for Rossetti’s “Speaking Likenesses”

  1. Michael House says:

    I have a book, published by Routledge, supposedly in 1924, which arrived in an unprinted buff wrapper. I couldn’t see any sign of scissor cuts to suggest it was custom-made by the book’s owner. Is an unprinted wrapper likely in 1924?


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