The Importance of Dust Jacketing

The dust jacket, also known as the book jacket, dust wrapper, or dust cover, is the outer covering of a book that can be removed for easy reading. This protective cover for a book features flaps that fold over and secure it to the front and back covers.


At one point in time, when printing directly onto the binding was not yet an option, dust jackets were used to display cover information. The dust jacket has largely lost its function with the advent of hardcover printing technologies that allow for direct printing onto the binding.

Even in the digital age, dust covers have maintained their dual purpose of advertising the book and protecting it from wear and tear. Blurbs, publisher summaries, and endorsements from well-known people or authorities on the book’s subject matter are often included on the back panel or flaps of the dust cover. The flaps’ information is usually not replicated on the binding, and the dust jacket’s content may differ from that of the binding to promote a certain edition.

The dust cover prevents wear and tear on the book’s cover. However, if the book is destined for a library, the dust jacket may be further protected by a second, transparent cover due to its fragility and the practical, aesthetic, and occasionally monetary significance of dust jackets.


Some readers even keep the dust covers to use as bookmarks, but many others throw them away. Rare and collectible books, however, often have dust jackets that are just as valuable as the volumes themselves. Many modern first editions have a dust jacket that is as valuable as the book itself, and this rule of thumb applies even if the book itself is in poor shape.

Any blank wrapper made of archival paper will do the job of protecting its contents. A facsimile dust jacket, or a copy of the original dust jacket, will provide equivalent protection.

In other words, slapping a copy of the original dust jacket on a book that was originally published without one does not make the book look like the original. Nothing will go wrong if you are honest about the facsimile’s limitations and don’t try to pass it off as the real thing.

In order to prevent a book from being passed down the generations without the facsimile dust jacket being identified as a replica, any reputable vendor or collector will explicitly designate the dust jacket as a reproduction.


The dust jacket’s principal function is to safeguard a rare or valuable book from dirt and grime. Hence its disappearance from a book is a cause for alarm. In that light, consider these pointers:

  • The best way to safeguard your dust jackets from the elements and wear is to use a dust-jacket protector. Applying them correctly not only improves the book’s aesthetic appeal but also acts as a substantial barrier against long-term harm.
  • Invest in dust jacket protectors of archival quality and use them on your dust jackets. Depending on the condition of your book’s dust jacket, your antiquarian dealer will have suggestions for cleaning methods and lining options.
  • Sticky residue from non-archival tape will damage both the dust jacket and the book over time, so avoid using scotch tape on your dust-jacket protector or the wrapper itself.
  • Dust-jacket protectors may help shield books from UV rays, but it’s still best to keep them out of direct sunshine. Custom-manufactured clam-shell covers, for example, offer additional protection and are often the most aesthetically pleasing option.

The dust cover, like the book itself, is an important element of your collection and should be preserved and cared for.

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