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What’s in a Book Cover?

By C.V. Lee
May 25, 2021

I think we all can agree that books are marvelous things. We reach for them for learning on so many subjects and they provide a endless source of entertainment.  

In this day and age, a cover is an important element in the marketing of a book. An author or publisher takes great care in designing a cover to pique a reader’s interest.

When browsing at a bookstore or online, the cover is the first impression. And we know how important first impressions can be. If we find the image beautiful or intriguing, we are more likely to pick it up, read the back cover, maybe open it, and read the first few pages before making the decision whether or not to make the purchase.

My parents taught me to respect books. But when going through the many shelves of my mother’s books, I must admit that only a few were kept. Most were tossed aside as outdated or irrelevant for our lives today. 

Why? Because times have changed.

Unlike in centuries past, today there are so many books available. With over 2 million new books published each year, no one could possibly read them all. With so many new titles available, many older, or less loved, books find their way to the second hand store or the trash heap. 

Amongst the many new selections, only a few will stand the test of time and become classics. But even then, with copies of books so easy to come by, we’re more inclined to buy our own or borrow a copy from the library. Perchance a book might be passed it as an heirloom if it’s been signed by the author.

But even the covers of classic books change over time, re-designed to appeal to a contemporary audience, updated to reflect the current trends.

So different from centuries past, when books were passed on from generation to generation.

Back before the printing press was invented, books were few and expensive, the province of the church or the wealthy. Books were precious items to be passed down from generation to generation as families built their own private libraries.

If a person wanted a copy of a book, they would hire a scribe to copy a manuscript word for word, at a great cost to the patron. Some of these books were huge tomes with covers made of wood, bound with brackets and then covered with leather or fabric.

After spending so much for the text, why skimp on the price of the cover? Some ancient covers were works of art that still survive today, a reflection of the value given to those books by the owner. Truly cherished possessions.

As a writer, I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to write a book back then, to painstakingly handwrite a whole manuscript on parchment and ink by candlelight. And yet, it was done and some of are masterpieces, still read and beloved today. Bravo!

C.V. Lee
Written by C.V. Lee

C.V. Lee writes historical biographical fiction featuring forgotten heroes and heroines of the past. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Alli, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. You can find her on Facebook @cvlee.histficwriter and on Instagram @cvleewriter.

View CV’s PLW Profile

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