Wednesday, July 1, 2020

466. The "Outer Wrapper" of "The Pageant" for 1897

The dust wrapper for the second volume of The Pageant (for 1897, published in 1896) has been mentioned here earlier. It is an outstanding and early example of a multi-colour dust wrapper. I recently found a description of it written shortly after The Pageant was published - no other review discusses this feature.

Dust wrapper for The Pageant (for 1897),
designed by J.W. Gleeson White

The Morning Post of 15 December 1896 had the honour:

"The Pageant" […] that is now paraded for the second time before the public is evidently intended […] to be an annual display […] [it] is at least not devoid of humorous incidents rivalling those usually to be found in the civic procession. Three separate pages of varied appearance are devoted to the names and functions of the editors; but while on the first it is stated that Mr. C. Hazelwood Shannon is the art editor, and that Mr. Gleeson White is the literary editor, the reader learns from the third that their positions are to a certain extend reversible, inasmuch as the art editor has planned the printing of the book, while the outer wrapper is the conception of the literary editor. Mr. Gleeson White has amusingly demonstrated that his idea of illustrating a pageant is to hide all but a few pantomime flags and lances by a hideous red-brick wall; but he has imparted an original aspect to his design by dividing it into eight equal spaces with vertical green poles, from which sprout leaves treated "decoratively."

It's a witty observation of a truly unusual design. The dust wrapper of this book gives no idea of its contents; the pageant is hidden. However, there are pigeons to be seen that give hope of life on the other side of the wall; the flowers also symbolizing spring. 

There is no gate that gives access to the grounds behind the wall, and so the dust wrapper represents its own task in the book as an object. The reader will have to get past this wrapper, past the linen binding and the title page to enter the area that contains the literary and artistic contents. This symbolism is quite uncommon for this period, but then, the maker, J.W. Gleeson White, was an extraordinary editor and designer.