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The Art of American Book Cover - Frederick W. Gookin

When trying to learn more about F. W. Gookin, the first few biographical notes I found did not even mention his work as a book cover designer. I thought, "Maybe this Frederick William Gookin (1853–1936) is the wrong one." He was the Buckingham Curator of Japanese Prints at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he is described as "a lifelong Chicagoan."
Published on 20 Nov. 2014
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By Richard Minsky


When trying to learn more about F. W. Gookin, the first few biographical notes I found did not even mention his work as a book cover designer. I thought, "Maybe this Frederick William Gookin (1853–1936) is the wrong one."

He was the Buckingham Curator of Japanese Prints at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he is described as "a lifelong Chicagoan."

Another bio presents him as a banker who was born in Ludlow, Vermont, was the Assistant City Treasurer of Chicago in 1901, served as Secretary and Treasurer of the Chicago Literary Club from 1880-1920 and as its president in 1921. "He presented twenty-one papers during his nearly sixty years of membership. One of them - Our Defective American Banking System: A Diagnosis and Prescription, presented November 2, 1908 - was published by the Club."

The first Gookin binding I acquired was on a self-published 1893 cookbook created for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. It was in the Second Exhibition:

Frederick W. Gookin. Favorite Dishes: A Columbian Autograph Souvenir, by Carrie V. Shuman. Illustrations by Mary Root-Kern, Mellie Ingels Julian, Louis Braunhold, George Wharton Edwards. Published by Carrie V. Shuman, Chicago, 1893, Second Edition. Printed by R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co.

In the Third Exhibition we had this one:

Frederick W. Gookin - Uncanonized, by Margaret Horton Potter. A. C. McClurg & Co. , Chicago, 1901, Sixth Edition

Another by the same author, a year later, is on a shelf, not yet exhibited. It has an almost invisible monogram, similar to the one above, blind stamped in the border, that can only be seen in a strong raking light. Thanks to John Lehner for finding it.

Frederick W. Gookin - Istar of Babylon, by Margaret Horton Potter. Harper & Brothers, New York and London, 1902


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ILAB is proud to present a series of most interesting articles originally published on Richard Minsky’s blog The Art of American Book Covers. Richard Minsky has been making and remaking artists’ books for over fifty years. His tremendous work is documented in The Book Art of Richard Minsky, published by George Braziller Inc. in 2011. Richard Minsky founded the Center for Book Arts in 1974. His work has been shown around the world and remains in public collections, including the National Gallery of Art and The Victoria and Albert Museum. He has received many fellowships, grants and awards of recognition, including several from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Text and images Copyright © 2014 Richard Minsky. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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