Let’s Judge a Book by its Cover

Book jackets and the illustrations on them are often portals to the unknown worlds contained between the pages, and provide the first hints of what lies within. We take a look at some compelling covers from our upcoming online auction of First Editions, Signed and Limited Edition Books, which will take place on 25 – 26 June 2019 on StoryLTD.com.

Hound of the Baskervilles

1. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (Lot 78)

Estimate: Rs 2.75 – 3.5 lakhs ($3,990 – 5,075)

The cover of this 1902 edition of The Hound of the Baskervilles – featuring a tipped-in signature by Arthur Conan Doyle – was created by established British illustrator and book designer Alfred Garth Jones (1872 – 1955). He was known for his Art Nouveau style, seen here in the bold, thick lines of the cover and spine. The vivid scarlet cover is stamped with an ornate gilt design, superimposed with a shadowy stamp representing the theme of the book. The Hound of the Baskervilles, which features the inimitable detective Sherlock Holmes, remains one of Doyle’s best known novels and was born out of a golfing holiday that he took with his friend Fletcher Robison took in Cromer, England. 

Moby Dick2

2. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (Lot 84)

Estimate: Rs 90,000 – 1.1 lakhs ($1,305 – 1,595)

This edition of Moby-Dick was published by The Folio Society in 2009, and features a cover and illustrations by the American painter, illustrator and sailor Rockwell Kent. He was known for his unique style and dynamic engravings – often called Rockwellkentiana – that featured elements of the Art Deco aesthetic. The first edition of Moby-Dick illustrated by Kent in 1930 was immensely successful, selling out at a time during the Great Depression when such a feat was rare. The current design features the beautifully fluid rendition of a whale, perhaps informed by Kent’s many voyages, on a sleek black leather binding. The book has silver lettering on its spine and is housed in a black clamshell case.

The Folio Society, which was founded in 1947 in London, is known for publishing aesthetically crafted editions of important literary works, with alluring covers and intricate illustrations. Other books from The Folio Society in the auction include The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance (Lot 80), The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Lot 82), and Les Miserables (Lot 83).

Venetian Life
3. Venetian Life by William D Howells (Lot 73)

Estimate: Rs 80,000 – 1 lakh ($1,160 – 1,450)

The front and back covers of this edition of Venetian Life feature wooden boards overlaid with a mother-of-pearl inlay on which ornamental wooden strapwork panels are mounted. The panels feature the title on the front cover and a coat of arms on the back, each surrounded by contrasting blue and gold hand-painted floral designs and scrolls. In this book, Howells humorously recounts his time in Venice mingling with the locals and sampling Italian culture.


4. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (Lot 64)

Estimate: Rs 75,000 – 85,000 ($1,090 – 1,235)

This edition, translated by Edward Fitzgerald, was published in 2009 by The Folio Society to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat. Its vibrant cover was designed by the London-based Thai artist Niroot Puttapipat (b. Chiang Mai), who grew up reading books and devouring animated films, and whose art is influenced by this “lifelong love of literature, folklore, history, the arts, and the natural world.” The book features 16 coloured wood engravings with decorative gold borders by the artist, six of which have been exhibited in the Folio Society Gallery at the British Library. The spine and label of the book have been hand-lettered in 22-carat gold by Manchester-based textual artist Stephen Raw. 

Princess Badoura

5. Princess Badoura by Laurence Housman (Lot 61)

Estimate: Rs 50,000 – 60,000 ($725 – 870)

The cover of this edition of Princess Badoura – a tale from the Arabian Nights – has been designed by the renowned illustrator Edmund Dulac. The turquoise and gilt shades of the border unite it with the two winged figures that are holding up an urn of flowers. The border, with gold peacock motifs in the corners, frames the figures and architecturally locates them in the environment of the story, which has been retold by Laurence Housman.


6. Durbar edited by Mortimer Menpes (Lot 70)

Estimate: Rs 35,000 – 45,000 ($510 – 655)

With a cover by British-Australian artist and printmaker Mortimer Menpes, this edition of Durbar also features watercolour illustrations by the artist. Menpes was an ardent traveller who sought inspiration from the artistic styles of India, Japan, China, and Mexico. These influences are visible on the cover of this book in the light watercolour washes reminiscent of traditional Chinese and Japanese painting, as well as the miniature style popular in India. The text was written by Menpes’ daughter, Dorothy Menpes, and is a lively account of the celebrations surrounding the coronation of King Edward VII. The vibrant illustrations capture the glamorous world of the Delhi Durbar, while also creating a sense of familiarity. 


The auction of First Editions, Signed and Limited Edition Books will take place on StoryLTD.com on 25 – 26 June 2019. It is preceded by viewings at Saffronart’s Mumbai gallery from 18 – 26 June 2019 (excluding Sunday), where these books will be on display among other lots from the sale.

About the Author

Posted by

Add a Response

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.