Book jacket design exhibition

Book cover of 'Peril and Adventure'

The University of Reading Special Collections contain a wealth of fine examples of book jacket and cover designs from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This exhibition celebrates the wide variety of beautiful book jackets within our collections, through a selection of our most colourful favourites!

The books on display are mainly selected from the Children's Collection, Printing Collection, Finzi Book Room collection and the William St Clair Collection. There are also highlights from other rare book collections including Tallis's history and description of the Crystal Palace (John Tallis, 1852) from the Great Exhibition Collection, which features the publisher’s original blue cloth binding, with gold edgings and extensive gilt decoration (see image below).

Nineteenth century publishers' cloth bindings, such as Peril and Adventure from the William St Clair Collection (see image above), and twentieth century book jackets are particularly well represented in the collections, with book jackets illustrated by artists including Barnett Freedman, John Nash, Edward Bawden and Vanessa Bell.Tallis's history and description of the Crystal Palace ... (1851)

The exhibition also features a selection of delightfully designed twentieth century children’s annuals, such as School Yarns for Girls and The Boy’s Budget, serving as a wonderful, nostalgic insight into childhoods gone by, together with a selection of King Penguin books from our Printing Collection. Published between 1939 and 1959 the titles in this individually illustrated series were the first books with hard and colour printed covers published by Penguin.

Two titles from our collection of the Britain in Pictures series are on display (George Orwell’s The English People and Sylvia Lynd’s English Children). With their strikingly coloured book jackets, this series was published by Harper Collins between 1941-1949 with the intention of producing morale-boosting social histories whilst Britain was gripped by the Second World War.

The exhibition will be on display at the Special Collections Service from 7 January until 2 February 2014.

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