Jacketed Three-Deckers Ahoy!

A Three-Decker under Canvas

Another fascinating guest post and further requests for help with other sightings from Mark Godburn, author of “Nineteenth-Century Dust-Jackets” (Private Libraries Association & Oak Knoll Press, 2016).

A Three-Decker under Paper


I would like to record any three-deckers with surviving dust-jackets.  I have one, and have heard of another, but there probably aren’t many more than that.


A Thomas Hardy three-decker of unknown title is reported to retain remnants of jackets printed with rules and lettering.  Does anyone know what title this is, and where it is today?


My own three-decker is J. M. Barrie’s The Little Minister (London, Paris and Melbourne: Cassell & Co., 1891) in the publisher’s fine-ribbed cloth with plain white wove tissue jackets.  This copy, described as the finest example extant, sold for $1,100 in 1938, quite a sum during the Great Depression.  The plain jackets are definitely original: they exactly match the plain white tissue jacket on another Cassell novel, Robert Louis Stevenson’s and Lloyd Osbourne’s The Wrecker (1892), whose jacket was even cut short in the same way as the Barrie jackets, a fairly common occurrence then.  And on both titles, the jackets have one flap wider than the other, again a common occurrence, at least on British jackets.  And another Stevenson novel published by Cassell, Catriona (1893), also has the same white jacket.  The uniform cut and fold of all these jackets and the flawless condition of the bindings on three Cassell novels from 1891-92-93 is ample proof that the plain jackets are original.


Someone, perhaps a bindery or bookstore clerk, put graphite on The Wrecker jacket to make the title stand out; has anyone seen other plain jackets treated this way?  Usually, the top of plain jacket spines would be torn away by a clerk to reveal the title if a hole hadn’t already been punched there for that purpose.


Are there any other three-deckers with surviving jackets?  I find none in auction searches. The closest other example I’ve seen is a two-volume reprint from 1888 of a Mrs. Humphry Ward three-decker, Robert Elsmere, with a publisher-stamped wax paper jacket surviving on one of the two volumes; this was Smith Elder’s file copy.  Novels as a genre survived with jackets even less often than most nineteenth-century books, and three-decker jackets survived least of all since most of them were sold to lending libraries, where jackets always perished.


Aside from three-deckers in jackets, I am also looking for jackets on either edition of Lewis Carroll’s The Game of Logic (London: Macmillan & Co., 1886/1887).  The wax paper jacket on this 1886 copy seems to be original based on the type of paper and its cut, and on the unusually fine, unworn condition of the binding, which shows slight darkening only in areas that directly correspond to the jacket’s loss, as it should.  Macmillan also used semi-transparent jackets on the 1890 edition of The Nursery Alice, so Carroll, who was as fastidious about dust-jackets as everything else, seems not to have been averse to such jackets.


This copy of Logic was one of the 500 from 1886 that Carroll rejected for poor printing, 250 of which were then sold to America, like the first printing of Alice in Wonderland (see Clare Imholtz, ‘Two Simultaneous Editions of Lewis Carroll’s The Game of Logic’, Sept. 2008, ANQ).  The 250 copies of Logic were evidently bound in London, and it seems likely that Macmillan would not have gone to the expense of producing printed jackets for the American market, but would have simply protected the books for their ocean voyage with something cheap like unprinted wax paper bindery jackets. And since these books were not being sold in England under Carroll’s watchful eye, there was no special need to have the title printed on the jacket spines as Carroll had requested for the jackets on The Hunting of the Snark in 1876 and his books in storage at that time. In any event, transparent jackets let the title show through.


The more common copies of The Game of Logic that were printed for the British market in 1887 may have had the same or different jackets as this 1886 copy.  Has anyone seen any kind of jacket on either edition of The Game of Logic?


Thank you. Email: markrgodburn@gmail.com

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.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s