I’m a writer as well as a sloooowly developing artist, and I love books, especially older books which were designed with care and treated as something more than bundles of information.
At the library today I ran across a lovely book about such books, or more precisely about book covers.
Alas, the days are gone when book cover artists worked their magic. I’m not talking about dust cover art which is what we see on hard-bound books today but the covers of the books themselves. If a book did come with a dust cover you could take it off and have something beautiful in hand. Remove the dust cover now and you’ll have colored pasteboard with no art at all.
I lament this condition.
Book cover art in America had its heyday in the Art Nouveau period, and the covers are beautiful, often tending toward water lilies and other flowers as was the wont of much Art Nouveau design. But these were not “art books” that cost an arm and a leg. These were ordinary books any bookseller might stock. What a joy it must have been to walk through a bookstore in the 1930s or so – a walk through a gallery!
The publishing world has changed, of course, and is now run by people motivated by a lot of things unrelated to art. I’m reminded of the words of writer Tom Robbins, a man with an artist’s heart I’m absolutely certain:
“People who sacrifice beauty for efficiency get what they deserve.”
And so do people who sacrifice beauty for the all-mighty buck.