I told you about the Oldbooks antiquarian bookstore in Unionville, NY and its owner, William McDonnell, who told me about Decorative Designers, one of many firms that designed bookcovers between 1890 and 1920 before paper dust jackets put them out of business. You probably realize that we book lovers need the most feeble of excuses to collect books. So, I’ve been on a mission to find books (affordable ones) that have covers designed by Decorative Designers. The interlocked Ds is their logo.
I borrowed this copy of Lady Geraldine’s Courtship by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, published in 1907, from Wagner College on Staten Island. Who knows when it was last taken out, but it’s got one of those card stock borrowing cards stuck in the front flap with only one name on it. I would hope it was taken out more than once since 1907. It’s back cover is faded on the top, like another book was laid on top of it so the sun only hit the top inch of the cover. But it’s in great condition.
What you can’t appreciate from this photo is the shininess of the gold on the cover, the beauty of the script of the title and the delicacy of the design. You can’t imagine the gold on the top of the pages and the uncut fore edges (I think that’s the proper term). And you certainly can’t visualize the decorations by Franklin Booth on each page surrounding Browning’s beautiful poetry. These designs are variations on the the cover design, but each distinctive on its own. And you can’t conjure up in your mind the marvelous illustrations by G. C. Wilmshurst.
Regardless of whether or not you love Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the 1907 edition of Lady Geraldine’s Courtship is a masterpiece on its own and I understand there’s an 1885 edition that’s quite special. But I’ll stick to Decorative Designers. Books as art…something we’ve lost.