“Sous la botte” (2): the German boot in the illustrated book covers of the Liberation collection (1944-46)

In 2019, I started working on a project aimed at providing access through Cambridge University Library catalogue (iDiscover) to digitised images of book covers of the Chadwyck-Healey collection (about 3000 books in French about the Second World War, the Occupation and the Liberation, published between 1944 and 1946), with photographer Fanny Bara. We were struck by the number of titles and cover illustrations featuring the German boot (see my previous blog post on the use of the expression “sous la botte” in the literature of the Liberation). More than half of the Liberation collection books whose title refers to the German boot feature illustrated covers including an actual depiction of a boot (five covers) or German soldiers in uniform (six covers, three of which are photographic). Only the comic book Biroulet sous la botte by Raymond Sempé, (Liberation.a.37) features a strictly black and white cover illustration: while a stern looking German soldier goose steps, Biroulet, depicted as a mischievous peasant child, wearing clogs and beret, and holding a simple wooden stick, cocks a snook at him.

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Judging books of the Liberation of France by their cover: a new feature of Cambridge University Library catalogue

Book covers, originally designed to protect the pages of a book, now serve a commercial purpose: they attract the gaze, aiming at inducing the purchase and reading of a book. Their design and appearance are determined by national or sectorial rules and traditions: academic versus popular publishing, paperbacks versus hardbacks. In this blog, I will explore some of the characteristics of current French book covers’ design, the growing importance of book covers images in social media and digital collections, and a specific project designed at Cambridge University Library: adding pictures of book covers to catalogue records of the Liberation collection, 1944-46. Continue reading