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No Jacket, No Problem

The results of a hasty and informal poll are in: most people remove the jacket from a hardcover book when they read it. Sometimes they get put back on when the book’s been read, but if they’ve been splattered by tea or torn, the jacket ends up in the trash.


Books come to us this way -- without their dust-wrappers -- all the time, and sometimes we don’t buy a book because of it. Why? Isn’t the jacket -- as one customer put it recently -- “the least important part of the book?”



For most of the 19th century and into the 20th century, dust jackets were undecorated and completely utilitarian in design -- plain paper wraps that protected the elaborate bindings beneath. Now the opposite is true: under the jacket, most books are plain and call no attention to themselves. It’s the thin paper jacket that must compete visually with every other book on the shelf, and without it, most books would be passed over.


We wanted to shine a little light on books in the buff. No dust jacket, no stickers, no summaries or blurbs on the back cover to influence you. These books, published between the late 19th century and early years of the 20th, were designed by illustrators influenced by art, history, and cultural movements of their time.

Which book would you pick up?



“The right cover is like a beautiful coat, elegant and warm, wrapping my words as they travel through the world, on their way to keep an appointment with my readers. The wrong cover is cumbersome, suffocating. Or it is like a too-light sweater: inadequate.” Jhumpa Lahiri


To see the full catalog, click here.

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Riverby Books is located at

805 Caroline Street, Fredericksburg, VA.

(540) 373-6148