“Fadeless Sundour”

Found on the dust jacket of a Collins 1939 edition of Alice in Wonderland
 this notice:

This book is bound in fadeless Sundour cloth, which can be lightly rubbed with a sponge when soiled, with perfect safety.

The cloth has hardly faded in its 77 year life and does not need sponging. The Sundour company is still going (in Warrington, Lancs) but now deals almost exclusively with  curtains. Its involvement with book cloth seems to have ceased in the 1940s. There is very little online about this and Sundour’s fadeless cloth is mostly mentioned in the more meticulous used bookseller’s lists…

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Blurb – the beginnings

The American humourist and illustrator Gelett Burgess is not much known in the UK. However, his very witty take on clichés and platitudes, Are You a Bromide ? (1907), deserves a place in the pantheon of classic US humour. Not only does it differentiate between Bromides and Sulphites—the former referring to someone set in their ways who uses trite sayings, while the latter are original thinkers with perceptive things to say, but it spawned the term ‘blurb’, which, of course, is still used today to describe a publisher’s puff for a new work.

The problem is that this word only appeared on the dust-jacket of Burgess’s book, which meant that—dust-jackets being discarded back then, as they still are, by all types of libraries, but not, thank goodness, by dealers—the term probably didn’t catch on as quickly as it should have done. And if it hadn’t been for scholars of book history, like dust-jacket supremo, Thomas Tanselle, the wrapper for Are You a Bromide might never have been brought into the light of day. Certainly, it was more innovative and amusing than most of this period. While the typical wrapper might   feature a slightly modified reproduction of the title page, with perhaps some modest art work, Burgess’s is more like an advertising poster for the book. Hence it demonstrates precisely what a ‘blurb‘ was by giving an example of it. Clever stuff! [R.R.]