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Chicago Under Wraps:
Dust Jackets from 1920–1950

Ryerson and Burnham Libraries

#2 Ben Hecht. 1001 Afternoons in Chicago. Illustrated by Herman Rosse. Chicago: Covici-McGee, 1922. Collection of Charles L. Miner.

The dust jackets, all printed between 1920 and 1950, are historically significant. Some depict scenes of Chicago; some were designed by Chicago-based graphic artists; and some were published by Chicago firms. They reveal trends in book design and illustrate a rich period of publishing in the Midwest's leading metropolis. "The book jacket's rise to prominence during the 1920s was part of a general expansion of the publishing business in North America," writes Victor Margolin, professor of art history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who is the author of the accompanying catalog.

#11 Edgar Lee Masters. The Tale of Chicago. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1928. Collection of Edward C. Hirschland.

The design of the jacket is a crucial element of any hardcover book, for both commercial and artistic reasons. The design must attract the attention of the potential buyer, as with other consumer goods like soap and cereal. But equally important, a successful design should suggest the book's content. Once in the reader's possession, dust jackets are often discarded, making those that survive in good condition highly coveted collector's items.

#17 Harold F. Gosnell. Negro Politicians: The Rise of Negro Politics in Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1925. Collection of John C. Blew.

Among the jackets on display are Ben Hecht's memoir 1001 Afternoons in Chicago (1923), Richard Wright's Native Son (1940), Harry Stephen Keeler's The Fourth King (1930), Frank Lloyd Wright's An Autobiography (1932), and Margaret Anderson's My Thirty Years' War (1930). The exhibit is divided into eight categories including "Know Your Chicago," "Life in the City," "Crime Capital of the World," "Native Narrators," and "Whodunits?"

#35 Gordon L. Hostetter and Thomas Quinn Beesley. It's a Racket. Chicago: Les Quinn Books, 1929. Collection of Craig V. Showalter.

The Caxton Club, from whose members most of the books in the exhibition were borrowed, was founded in Chicago in 1895 by collectors of antiquarian books. Like the current exhibition, The Caxton Club held its first exhibition at the Art Institute in 1895. A color illustrated catalog including a checklist with Professor Margolin's essay will be available gratis during the exhibition. A copy can be sent ($5.00 charge) in response to a request to the Caxton Club (312-255-3710) until the edition is exhausted.