A Book By Its Cover


It is not often that Ms. Jeannie will tell you to judge a book by its cover, but in the case of Destiny Bay, a vintage fiction novel recently listed in her shop, she wholeheartedly recommends it. In an on-going conversation about book collections and what fuels them, we’ve talked about book batches centered around a favorite author (F. Scott Fitzgerald!) or a common theme (Africa!). Today’s post is all about the first impressions that draw us in and keep us going – the face of the book.  A book’s aesthetic is often one of the key motivations in amassing a collection. Some people collect books with eye-catching covers for their color arrangement…


or for their stunning graphic layout and design…

Book covers from the 1920's, 1930's and 1940's
Book covers from the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s

Collections can be built around books from a specific time period, like this antique collection…

This is an antique collection with gorgeous decorated book spines.
This is an antique collection with gorgeous decorated book spines.

or for the artist behind the image like these contemporary book covers designed by Chip Kidd…


In the case of Destiny Bay, there are a lot of things going for it in the pretty presentation department. By far, it is one of the most attractive books that has ever come across Ms. Jeannie’s bookshelves.


From its whimsical illustration, complimentary color palette and stylish graphics this edition of Destiny Bay fires on all cylinders in the book cover department.

The story, originally published in 1925 by Irish American writer Donn Bryne, centers around the MacFarlane family of Ulster County, Ireland and combines romance, comedy and tragedy. The story is set against the sweeping Irish countryside with its beautiful topography, exiting horse race tracks, and idyllic country estates and features an eccentric cast of characters including blind Aunt Jenepher, gypsy Lady Clontarf, butler James Carabine and red-blooded Uncle Valentino to name a few. Combining the themes and characters of the book  California artist Frank McIntosh (1901-1985) illustrated a cover that symbolizes the bright green landscape of Ireland and the colorful personalities of the family.

The stylized dust jacket via font and graphics are a nod towards art deco  – the 1920’s style that was popular when the book first debuted.  The colors are a compliment in opposites with bright spring greens and tangerine oranges each elegantly outlined in black ink. An overall dramatic and glamorous aesthetic that always seems to be in vogue no matter what the decade!

McIntosh built quite a career utilizing the sleek lines and sophisticated detailings that became so iconic of his work. He came of age in the 1920’s which no doubt left quite an impression on him and he carried that passion throughout his design career.  Taking him from California all the way around the world to Paris and back again, he traveled in both commercial art circles and fine art circles.  These are three of his beautiful covers for Asia Magazine…


We know from Destiny Bay, he was also a book designer and most of his work in the publishing world carried the same delicate disposition…


A robust career in advertising and freelance illustration left time to exhibit independently as well and kept his title of working artist relevant throughout most of the 20th century. Examples of his work in popular poster form are all so highly collectible now…


That makes Mr. Frank McIntosh a superstar in Ms. Jeannie’s world! His books look stunning on a shelf and his posters look equally amazing next to the shelf! So go ahead dear readers appreciate Destiny Bay for face value, and in doing so you’ll be pleased to discover that the story is equally beautiful as well! A gem of vintage book collecting all wrapped up in pretty package! Find the book here.

Open up more discussion on why you like to collect books by adding your thoughts in the comments section below!