Glassine, you don’t have to put on the red light.

I hearby sentence any book with a glassine jacket to the darkest depths of hell or at least backshelved which amounts to the same thing. And that goes double for a book with a glassine jacket inside a slipcase.

When and why did someone think this was a good idea? One false move and you might as well condemn the book to the metal carousel rack. I have literally seen sweat bead on the foreheads of booksellers as they attempt to (gently…GENTLY…) remove a book with a glassine jacket from a stubborn, warped and wonky slipcase.

King Arthur couldn’t get the damn thing out. I wish Loki would steal them and take them to another Marvel timeline.

When did this madness + chaos begin?

Once again, we have the 19th century to blame for this. (I blame the 19th century for so many abominations already.)

The glassine dust jacket, like most dust jackets of the 19th century, was originally designed as more of a protective covering to get the book from the bookseller’s establishment to the home of the buyer in the same condition it was purchased. Glassine, being translucent, allowed the bookseller to easily inventory the book without removing the protective covering, allowed the buyer to get a physical appreciation of the book before purchasing and offered modest protection to the book upon transport.

In some cases, there could be some printing on the glassine which offered a title or some bit of extra marketing or advertising. Above all, it was cheap.


As a result, books from the 19th and early 20th century which have miraculously retained their protective dust jackets, especially glassine, are hungrily stalked. It’s the WHOLE package, if you know what I mean. The bell, book and the candle. The entire enchilada. And glassine remained popular for decades to come, as an ode, perhaps, to more antique practices (people tend to be sentimental when it comes to the recent past) or it was also a physical indicator, a visual short hand of collectability.  Both, more than likely, as publishers are NOT sentimentalists.


But, I am here as a professional antiquarian bookseller to announce that this ethereal beauty that often covers sweet books of poetry and art and children’s books from the earlier centuries is the equivalent of trying to open an old jar of pickles only to find an Egyptian mummy inside. Therefore, if you find a book such as this in a book store, please march it to the bookseller and ask for assistance rather than giving yourself the bends trying to be GENTLE.


As much as I love Keats, beauty has its limitations.


So, to the collectors of these glassine-sheathed butterflies, you are my heroes. I’m frankly scared to death to put my barbaric hands on the damn things.
But, I will do it on a dare.
Stay beautiful.

Here is what we are listening to while writing this:

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