We all know we're not supposed to judge books by their covers, but the truth is that we do just that nearly every time we walk into a bookstore or pull a book off a tightly packed shelf. It's really not something we should be ashamed about, for it reinforces something we sincerely believe: design matters. At its best, book cover design is an art that transcends the publisher's commercial imperatives to reflect both an author's ideas and contemporary cultural values in a vital, intelligent, and beautiful way.
In this groundbreaking and lavishly illustrated history, authors Ned Drew and Paul Sternberger establish American book cover design as a tradition of sophisticated, visual excellence that has put shape to our literary landscape.
By Its Cover traces the story of the American book cover from its inception as a means of utilitarian protection for the book to its current status as an elaborately produced form of communication art. It is, at once, the intertwined story of American graphic design and American literature, and features the work of such legendary figures as Rockwell Kent, E. McKnight Kauffer, Paul Rand, Alvin Lustig, Rudy deHarak, and Roy Kuhlman along with more recent and contemporary innovators including Push Pin Studios, Chermayeff & Geismar, Karen Goldberg, Chip Kidd, and John Gall.
"An engaging look at literature and the progression of American design and typography."
Lancaster New Era:
"It is a literate, informative book, complemented by 200 telling illustrations."
Copley News Service:
"A literate, informative book . . . complemented by 200 telling illustrations."
I. D. International Design Magazine:
"This elegantly produced history of American book covers presents artifacts that renew our appreciation (were any more needed) for the talents of designers from W. A. Dwiggins to Rodrigo Corral."
The New Yorker:
"Book covers and jackets might seem to hover beneath serious critical notice, but nothing human is alien to the academic discipline called'cultural studies. . . . [In By Its Cover Drew and Sternberger] lump dust jackets with paperback covers and trace their intertwined development in terms of modernism and postmodernism.""
— John Updike
"Readers will be richly rewarded . . .with a loving survey of top-notch work by several dozen late greats, inspired unknowns, and rising hotshots of book design."
"Serves as a good overview of the high and low points of Modernism in 20th-century design in general and makes a good companion piece to other broader graphic design histories."