Almost everyone in the English-speaking world can say that they have heard the phrase “never judge a book by its cover” at one point or another. But looking through the history of book covers and the art of book design, this phrase falls short and renders itself as false.
For hundreds of years, the book cover’s sole purpose was to serve as a protective device for pages that were usually handwritten and to keep the pages together through binding them. That being said, historically, the aforementioned binding was meant to display the inherent culture of the culture in which the book inside was written, and they were not meant to serve as a means with which to market the written content inside the binding, but were usually made of leather and various prints or engraving meant on the leather, in order to portray the culture of the written work inside. In addition, usually the book binding itself did not include any written text.
A shift in book cover techniques and production occurred between 1837 and 1852, when processes such as multi-color lithography and half-tone illustrations came to the forefront of the book design and publishing industry. This, thus, created the first catalyst for the significant change of book design, shifting the focus from mere drawings and engravings on the cover, to writing the name of the written material and its authors; a shift from putting the culture/country at the forefront of human consumption, to shifting the focus to the author and his or her work. This shift is greatly attributed to the Enlightenment era, as well as the French and American revolutions, that put the human being (rather than God or the government) as the mere focus of society.
Nowadays, the cover design of a book is the fulcrum of book consumption, even more than the content. In addition to reading the book, people are interested in keeping it in their library, and the design of the book vehemently affects the reading experience. Moreover, the superfluous amount of book publishers, enhanced by capitalism and the consumption era, leads readers who want to purchase a specific book, which was published by many publishing houses, to pick the one with the cover that they render as most beautiful. From Vanessa Bell to Jan Tischold and Arvin Lustig, book covers served as imminent parts of the book as a whole, and attracted readers to both pick it among various others, and to give them a visual, artistic sense of what the book is going to be about.
At Dan Alexander and Co, we place a huge emphasis as much on the design of a book than on its content. We designed the cover of the book “Dualitas”, which is an artbook, and the cover design serves as another artwork that is a container of the artistic works presented in the book itself. Furthermore, our acclaimed, award-winning book “On the Hummus route”, engraved in gold with the word “Hummus” in three languages (English, Arabic, and Hebrew) already serves a political message of peace and diversity. In addition, the slogan about people and places that is embellishing the cover of the book, obfuscates the boundaries of the genre of the book, letting the reader open it, and engulf in the adventure of finding out what this book is about and letting it guide him or her through its fascinating journey.