The V&A’s collections include artists’ books, children’s books, examples of early printing and illumination, modern book design, dust jackets and graphic novels. Most of these are held in the National Art Library.
The History of the Dust Jacket
Dust jackets were first developed during the 19th century as plain protective wrappings for books bound in fine materials such as leather or silk. The late 19th century saw a move towards decorative dust jackets, and by the end of the century the dust jacket was considered an integral part of the book design. By the 1920s it had become common practice for publishers to issue their books with illustrated dust jackets. The function of the dust jacket had changed from providing protection to being an important promotional tool.
The British Library Dust Jackets Collection
The British Library collection of dust jackets is held on loan by the V&A at Blythe House. Begun in the 1920s, the collection now contains over 11,000 items, including not only examples from British publications but also from Europe, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, South America, India, Japan and Russia.
The Booker Prize
First awarded in 1969, the Booker Prize was created to reward the best new novel of the year in Britain and the Commonwealth, encouraging the wider reading of the very best in fiction. Since 1991 the Booker Prize Foundation has commissioned bespoke bindings for all the shortlisted books. The bindings are executed by members of Designer Bookbinders, one of the foremost societies devoted to the craft of fine bookbinding.
The Book of Trades (Das Ständebuch)
The Book of Trades was published in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, in 1568, with text by Hans Sachs (1494–1576) and illustrations by Jost Amman (1539–91). It features detailed woodcut illustrations of various professions, each accompanied by a short poem in rhyming couplets and provides a fascinating insight into the diverse trades and crafts practised in 16th-century Nuremberg.
Artists' books are books made or conceived by artists. Artists' books that maintain the traditional structure of a book are often known as book art or bookworks, while those that reference the shape of a book are known as book objects. In 2008, the V&A hosted the exhibition Blood on Paper: The Art of the Book.
Although she died in 1943, Beatrix Potter is still one of the world's best-selling and best-loved children's authors. She wrote and illustrated a total of 28 books, including the 23 Tales, the 'little books' that have been translated into more than 35 languages and sold over 100 million copies.
National Art Library
Monday: CLOSED | Tuesday: 10.00 - 17.30 | Wednesday: 10.00 - 17.30 | Thursday: 10.00 - 17.30 | Friday: 10.00 – 18.30 | Saturday: 10.00 - 17.30 | Sunday: CLOSED. The National Art Library is a major public reference library of fine and decorative arts of many countries and periods. Please visit the About the National Art Library page for planned closures.