Never Judge a Book by its Cover…or Should You?

Being an older student along with majoring in English, I have gone on multiple trips to Wilson Library. Whether it be for an assignment or just a class trip, I have always found the visits intriguing and eye opening. With that said, hearing that our class would be taking a trip to Wilson left me wondering if I would be able to have a different experience this time. The answer of course was “yes.” Considering we have covered many texts that are truly fascinating, I am always curious as to what Wilson Library has to offer in regards to the period these novels were written and published. The most interesting matter was the material elements of the books and how it shapes the lens in which we read the stories. We may look at the cover of the book, for instance, and expect a certain kind of story only to be left with a completely different story after we have read it.

Right out of the gate we were introduced to this exact topic with The Secret Life of Robinson Crusoe written by Humphrey Richardson. At first glance just by examining the cover, I felt as though this book was going to be an adaptation of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. By looking at the size which appeared to be a  hand held book, I thought the story would be reflective of the book’s size as it would contain an adventure of sorts to accompany a person that travels a lot. Robinson Crusoe erotica was the basis of the story. This is why I love Wilson Library. I had no clue that the novel would contain such a story topic, let alone having no idea that was even a topic that was written about which brings up the question “why?”

My initial thought was that it had to be a marketing strategy based on the fact that it looked very ordinary with no pictures and no preview on the back of the book. However considering that the story was written for an intended audience who knew of this genre, I felt as though the cover and the ordinary nature of the material elements were made more to set the mood for readers, odd enough. Discovering this information was an interesting and eye opening experience to say the least, but Wilson did not stop there. From a collection of love stories containing a Sherlock Holmes mystery in “With all my love: 7 tender love stories to quicken the beat of your heart” to a 1953 published version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, these books contain material elements that are intended to shape or fool, if you will, the reader’s perception of what the stories in these books are about. Material elements of a book can also make a reader want to purchase a book that contains a story they already know in order to reread the story through a different lens changing their experience. Long story short, check out the material elements of a book. It could very well change the story completely.