Many books were issued in several variants of the same design. Some are on well defined subsequent printings or editions, or from the same dies used by a different publisher, while others are on copies that appear bibliographically identical. There are many possible reasons for this, as a related current discussion on the Exlibris listserv indicates. Books were issued in several colors to appeal to different tastes, or to fit in with home decor. One Exlibris member noted an entire private library where all the books were in blue cloth.
Reprints were sometimes done from the same type or plates with no stated print run. On a large run, more than one bookbinder may have been used. Cloth of one color or dye lot may have been insufficient for the quantity needed. Errors in stamping may have occurred and been corrected when discovered, allowing the copies with errors to be sold if the copies were still usable. If you read the various Exlibris postings there are many other possibilities as well.
Here are a few examples with different reasons for the variation. They are small to fit side-by-side. Click to see them a bit larger.
Mitchell, J. A. The Last American. Illustrations by F. W. Read and the author, decorations by Albert D. Blashfield. New York: Frederick A. Stoles Company, n.d., ©1902. Blue cloth stamped in red, white, yellow and gold with a Persian motif, animals and cartoony characters being bitten on the nose by mosquitoes, a ship in the center, gold title on cover and spine. 19.6 x 14.4. Also a variant, apparently identical, except the stamping has pink instead of white. [Blashfield, Albert D., unsigned (in the style of the decorations)]
Harben, Will N. The Redemption of Kenneth Galt. Frontispiece. New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1909, September. Dark teal gray cloth stamped in black and split fountain (blue to yellow) pictorial of a man in a suit at sunrise (?), yellow title on cover; gold title on spine with winged heart and star emblem printed in split fountain colors. [lib, R with some waterstaining to top outside corners of pages] 19.3 x 12.7. Also a copy of the undated A. L. Burt Company edition in blue cloth with the same pictorial, lighter, black title on spine. 19.2 x 13.2 [The Decorative Designers (?, unsigned)]
Biart, Lucien, trans. by Mrs. Cashel Hoey and John Lillie. An Involuntary Voyage. Illustrated by H. Meyer. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880. Blue cloth on beveled boards stamped with gold mast, title in maroon and gold pennant. HB logo in maroon and gold on back cover. A second copy in green cloth, otherwise identical. 19.8 x 13.
Cullum, Ridgwell. In the Brooding Wild. Frontispiece by Charles Livingston Bull. Boston: L. C. Page & Company, 1905, May. Blue cloth stamped in black, white, orange and gray winter treescape with skier and mountains, white title on cover and spine. 19.7 x 13.5. Also a reprint with a variant of this design, Boston: A. L. Burt Company, n.d., Third impression, April, 1909. Gray-green cloth stamped in black, yellow and light gray, yellow title on cover and spine. 19.3 x 12.8 [Bull, Charles Livingston, signed C.L.B.]
Duncan, Norman. The Cruise of the Shining Light. New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1907, April. Green pebble-grain cloth with gold and blind stamping. 19.1 x 12.7 Also a copy of the Toronto: Henry Frowde, 1907 edition, with the same design, here the water is stamped in light and dark turquoise. [possibly Ball, Thomas Watson ? unsigned]
Gordon, Julien. World's People. New York: J. F. Taylor & Company, 1902, June. Green smooth-grained cloth stamped with white stylized tree, white title on cover and spine.. 16 pp. of publishers' ads in the back. Another copy with the same pages except no ads in the back, in vertically ribbed green cloth stamped with the same design in dark green. 19.8 x 13.7 [Evelyn W. Clark, signed EWC]
Holmes, Prescott. The Story of Exploration and Adventure in the Frozen Seas. Illustrated. Philadelphia: Henry Altemus, n.d., ©1896. Green cloth stamped in brown, dark green, olive-tan, blue-gray and white pictorial of a person kayaking amid ice floes, red title on cover reads "Exploration and Discovery in the Frozen Seas" and spine reads "The Frozen Seas". 20 pp of ads in the back, the latest title being 1902. Also, a reference copy on darker green cloth with silver (white metal) title, warmer gray, different spine decoration, 4 pp of ads in back, latest is 1897 (R, spine tail gone, some rubbing). 17.1 x 14.6
Huch, Ricarda, trans. by Lorna Dietz. The Deruga Trial. New York: The Macaulay Company, n.d., ©1929. Black cloth with red Art Deco lettering and stylized courtroom scene. Red title on spine. The author's name is spelled "HUCH" on the title page and cover, but "HUGH" on the spine. No ads in back, endpapers with repeat pattern of owl silhouetted against moon and phrase "A Macaulay Mystery." Also a copy in gray cloth with the same stamping and plain endpapers, nine pages of ads at the back, the newest title of which is The Man of a Hundred Faces (1930). 19.5 x 13.4
Roberts, Charles G. D. Earth's Enigmas. Boston and New York: Lamson Wolffe and Company, 1896. Straw-color cloth stamped with black and brown image of a raptor. Extensive author's inscription on ffep: "First edition. / C.G.D.R. // This collection contains two stories--"Do Seek Their Meat from God" and "Strayed"--which may fairly claim to be the forerunners of the modern animal or nature story, which takes into account the psychology of the animal world. / Charles G. D. Roberts / Nov. 1928". Also a later edition using the same cover image, stamped in black and beige, with gold title, black single line border, on green cloth in larger format. Blind stamped leaf on back cover. L.C. Page & Company, Boston, 1903, May. Illustrated by Charles Livingston Bull. And a third edition, also from Page, 1923, April, with a variation of the 1903 design, the raptor in very light turquoise and dark green and no border. 17.5 x 11.5 [Bull, Charles Livingston ?, unsigned]
Warman, Cy. Tales of an Engineer with Rhymes of the Rail. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1895 (first edition). Gray cloth stamped with maroon modernist abstract design on front cover and spine of smoke coming from a smokestack, gold titles. This copy has a diamond-shaped logo "The Q and C Co." stamped on the front and back covers. A second copy is the 1896 printing, identical except the cloth is pinkish, and the "Q and C Co." logo is stamped in the same place on the front cover and on the spine, but not on the back cover. 18.3 x 12.5
Porter, Gene Stratton. Song of the Cardinal. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1912. Press of Braunworth and Co., Brooklyn. Compare the spine on the copy on the left to the one on the right (a reference copy with the spine flowers rubbed or flaked off). Clearly the decoration was designed to enclose the title, but it was issued both ways, with the contents inside being identical. [unsigned MA, GE 198, variant not noted]
The Counterpress x Derwent - A lovely short film about The Counter Press, a design studio and letterpress workshop in east London:
12 hours ago