While perusing the New York Antiquarian Book Show, I came across a seller, Yesterday’s Gallery & Babylon Revisited, whose inventory almost exclusively deals in the period between the wars. The dust jackets of that span reflected the artistic craze now known as Art Deco. I’ve collected many books with the Deco motif, and would have grabbed one book they had in particular, had it not been a little out of my reach. ABE, as usual, highlighted this specific section of antiquarian books, showing off what they considered to be great examples of Art Deco jackets. I think they did a decent job of finding some gems–especially since a few of them I own. It’s hard to explain what my criteria for ‘Deco’ consists of. I know it when I see it, but that’s not very helpful when writing an article. I suppose it’s the bold lines and color, the elegance that entices my eye. Although not all 20s and 30s dust jackets can be considered Deco in design, most seemed to have followed it.
Late 20s and early 30s appear to be the years with the most heavily Art Deco produced jackets. The entire production output of the short lived Mystery League publication is either illustrated by Arthur Hawkins, or Gene, both similar in style, and decidedly Deco. Other crime novels from various publishers also produced lovely Deco pieces. The Doubleday Crime Club has some of the very best offered. However, crime wasn’t the only genre utilizing this form. Romances tend to gravitate towards this style, and there are non fiction books with geometric covers as well.
The Savoy Cocktail Book is a fantastic piece filled with recipes for drink mixes circa the late 20s. The book cover is gorgeous, and the entire content recently reproduced. Great Britain did not suffer through years of prohibition, as the US did. An American, Harry Craddock, fled the dry states and became the Head Barman at the American Bar in the Savoy Hotel in London during the 20s. He’s responsible for both the book plus many new cocktails. With all that history, you’d think we’d take good care of our first edition, wouldn’t you? Well, the husband kept it close to his mixing of things like Angel’s Dust, or Angel’s something, and spilled quite a bit of alcohol over it’s pages and boards, not to mention the binding being bent back. We finally bought the repro, but the damage was done by then. Recently I saw a copy going for 900 bucks. Suffice it to say, I was not pleased with my personal bartender at that moment. The best way to explain the lure of Art Deco dust jackets are to show them. So, I will!