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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2010
"The Art of American Book Covers 1875-1930" is a feast for the mind and the eye; intellectually rigorous, provocative and unpretentious. Minsky combines in this authoritative tour-de-force the highest levels of passion, giftedness, integrity and commitment, all rare commodities in our time. His technical breadth and expertise are nonpareil.

It is a rewarding experience just to glance at the book's lively visual content and to turn its pages. But the mother lode is in the exploration of Minsky's in-depth (but highly readable) descriptive notes that illuminate all facets of a cover and create active thought in the reader.

Bravo!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2010
This book is a treasure to have and to hold. The author's passion for and knowledge of the subject matter is evident on every page, with precise and insightful commentary and analysis. Richard Minsky is a first-rate scholar who has cornered the market on his subject matter, a splendid Golden Age of book design where imagery, typographic design, and painstaking craftsmanship resulted in books that are stunningly beautiful decorative objects, apart from their literary merits. I especially enjoyed the author's thematic juxtaposition of images; it is amazing to discover the ways in which a pattern of trees, for example, can serve as a backdrop for so many diverse subjects.

As edifying and well-written as the accompanying text may be, it is the images that mesmerize...so beautifully reproduced that one can almost imagine feeling the impression of the stamping and the glow of the gold on the woven texture of the jacket. These are exquisite likenesses, richly colored and finely detailed. I have found myself deeply drawn into this beautiful world through this well-made volume, itself handsomely bound and stamped with an ornate interleaving of vines and exotic blooms entirely representative of its contents. It is a most welcome addition to my collection of books on books, and anyone who loves books should have it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2010
Richard Minsky's The Art of American Book Covers: 1875-1930 is a work that fully merits the term amazing. He covers one of book publishing's most creative periods, when covers took on some of the qualities of sculpture.

Minsky is uniquely qualified to guide us through the history of a time when the book as art merged with the book as industrial object. He was a -- some would say the -- founder of the modern book art movement, whose influence inspired countless artists. He revolutionized the concept of the book by detaching it from its purely literary conventions and concentrating on the ways in which books provoke love and hate in the social milieu by their very existence. Using simple office equipment such as the inkjet printer, he also showed how the author/artist could escape the control of the industrial publishing complex and create works that were products of individual thought rather than groupthink.

The Art of American Book Covers mainly consists of the covers themselves, which are shown in full color, along with brief biographical and historical information, but Minsky's introduction -- beautifully illustrated with examples -- is a remarkably complete yet succinct history of the period, its artists and its main business and intellectual forces. He writes:

"In the 1870s book cover art in the United States entered a Golden Age that lasted more than fifty years. Some of the work is startling for its prescience and can be associated with art movements that occurred decades after the books were produced. Publishers commissioned contemporary painters, architects, and stained glass designers to create covers that would grab the eye of bookstore browsers.

"Artists experimented with new visual concepts and production processes in an era of rapid technological, social, and aesthetic evolution. These artists were in the forefront not only of book cover design, but of visual culture. In the following pages you will see works by early precursors to Malevich, Marinetti, Kandinsky, Kline, Escher, and other artists. One wonders if the artists had these books in their childhood homes.

"Identifying the cover artists helped publishers to sell books. Houghton, Mifflin took the lead in America in 1887, featuring Mrs. Henry Whitman's name as the cover designer in their advertising, but showed no images of the covers. Sarah Wyman Whitman created hundreds of covers for Houghton and influenced many other artists. In the decade that followed, other publishers' advertisements and catalogs featured cover artists such as Frank Hazenplug, Will Bradley, and Bruce Rogers, who had become so well known that their names appeared without pictures of the covers.

"As early as the 1840s, Americans were buying books as decorative objects for their homes as well as works of literature. This was not the same as buying sets of books by the yard to decorate the shelves of a home library. The beautiful covers of individual books were meant to be seen, not hidden on shelves with only their spines exposed."

If you love books, you will love this book. It is a landmark in the history of the book and will surely provide great inspiration for any artist, whether working in the field of books or not. Minsky captures a critical moment in industrial design that was characterized by a profound sense of humanism. Far from being ironed out and standardized, book covers were intensely personal, suffused with a kind of joy that survives to this day in the art of the book cover. Modern production may be much slicker, less textured, but book covers remain defiantly creative even as content is muffled in deadening white noise. The Art of American Book Covers is easily one of Minsky's greatest works, a stunning example of critical art history that is free of any kind of curatorial jargon, fundamentally respectful of our intelligence, yet clear, accessible and useful. It belongs in every library.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2010
I have been collecting the art of the book cover since 1965. I have been waiting for a book like "The Art of American Book Covers: 1875 - 1930" since 1965. While not wanting to prostrate myself and give loud thanks, I must say that it is way past time for my favorite subject to get this kind of recognition. If I had something like this on my bookshelf to guide my collecting back then (actually more like stumbling around in the dark), I might have a much better collection today. Mr. Minsky's efforts have exposed many designers and their work that I should have been collecting when such treasures were being shoved out the front door, flogged on the sidewalk tables for a quarter. For a paltry sum of money, one can reap the benefits of Mr. Minsky's vast knowledge on the subject as well as contributions from his many advisors who have been toiling in the bricks and mortar bookstores and now are trolling the Internet. The book covers displayed in this book are among the best of the best, covering the entire range of styles and subject matter. Indeed there is something for every collectors taste in art. Collectors love lists especially when searching the vast internet. Searching for cover art is very difficult when you have no author, no title or publisher. With Minsky's book by your side, one can get a flying start. Perhaps more book dealers on the internet will start putting scans of the covers in their listings. Buy this book, there is nothing like it out there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2010
Who would have ever thought that one day I'd get a book ABOUT other books? But this is really amazing. As a reader, I found myself learning and appreciating the craftsmanship that went into creating these magnificent book covers. I truly never knew that it was such an art form.

But as an artist I find myself going back to this collection over and over to study how these brilliant designers were able to achieve so much with so little. Page after page showcases some really stunning book covers with eye popping graphics that literally jump off the page. Then when you look closely, you realize that most were done with simple silohouettes and very limited pallettes. And what I didn't notice on my own, the author was there to point out what deserved a second, or in most cases, a third look. But in a very easy way. He definitely knows his stuff, but he never overwhelms you by over-dissecting any of the pieces. I really liked that!

One of my favorites is Dream Days (1902), where the shrubbery pops off the page like in a 3D movie. The gold accents, which many of these books used, makes it even more elegant.

The only bad part is now that I know what books used to look like, I'm pretty disappointed by the ones that I pick up today. Oh well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2010
Richard Minsky's "The Art of American Book Covers: 1875-1930" provides bibliophiles and collectors with an invaluable reference guide to the art of late-nineteenth to early twentieth century American publishers' bindings. Spurred on by the industrial revolution, technological advances in gold and poly-chromatic stamping led to an explosion of increasingly complex cover designs by leading artists and designers Including Rockwell Kent, Alice Morse, Maxfield Parrish, and Sarah Wyman Whitman. While the art that graced these covers would disappear in the years following the First World War to be replaced by printed paper wrappers, they made a lasting impact on the art of the book. Beautifully printed and bound, "The Art of American Book Covers" is itself covered in beautiful cloth with crisp gold stamping that skillfully evokes the essence of many of these bindings, unusual for a trade edition and a fitting tribute.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2011
This is more than just a flawlessly put-together book. Every page with its illustration of a book cover, is a joy to study. The photographs are unadorned except for explanatory text below the cover. There are even facing pages of ARTISTS' MONOGRAMS at the back of the book, along with the addition of a bibliography and a list of online resources. Also a listing of ORIENTAL ART AND ORNAMENT REFERENCES AVAILABLE TO THE ARTISTS. This is a book written by someone who loves books.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2011
An exquisite book and an amazing trip back in history. Page after page of beautiful images that make you ache for a time when we produced less, but did it with passion and style. And if you are not sated by the collection in the book, the author presents a website at the end into which you can fall for hours on end perusing endless categories of American classic book covers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2010
This is a superb book from one of our most innovative and exciting book scholars. The book presents some of the most richly produced images of early american publishers bindings that I have seen. Minsky's collecting instincts are fascinating and unexpected--by bringing together the books in this collection, he has created an archive and exhibition that is utterly comprehensive and that touches on all the major areas of book design during one of the most significant eras in American publishing. I found Minsky's essays to be particularly illuminating; consisting of a series of remarkable analyses of the art of the cover designs, the essays in this book are a profound contribution not only to the history of the book in America, but to the history of art and American culture in general. It is hard to think of a more exciting book for dealers or collectors of fine books and I can only imagine what the hand produced limited editions of these books must look like. I'm struggling to hold myself back from trying to get one from the author, since I heard there were a few left, though now that this compilation is out, I suppose that might be old news. But I'm going to check. Clearly 5 STARS; very satisfying.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2013
The Book Beautiful, whether manuscript, incunabulum, vellum or leather-bound, was once for the rich or for use in the Church. But in time, every commercial printer could produce a beautiful book and the cover is often what made it sell. Richard Minsky's book shows us the beautiful books ordinary people could buy from American publishers by and before 1900. He profiles the book cover artists, discusses their styles and innovations, and analyzes the effects they produced with their design, working within and exploiting a new medium: the cloth book cover, limited in size and to the effects that could be produced with brass die stamping. As one who has admired this art (and scoured library sales for examples) for many years, I am delighted and thankful that someone has managed to bring this art to a wider public appreciation. One can page through this book in amazement at a series of artful illusions or study and read how the artist achieved her or his effect. For myself, Richard Minsky has reminded me why I have admired and collected these books and reanimated my delight in looking at them!
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