Prior to the 1820s, most books were issued as unbound sheets or with disposable board covers. Customers would buy the text-blocks and commission bindings themselves--often to match the other titles in their library.
During the 1820s, publishers began encasing annuals and gift books in a sort of wrapping paper, printed with just enough text to identify the volume. It is difficult to ascertain when, exactly, paper wrappers were employed first by publishers, since they were intended to be discarded. In fact, the wrappers were frequently destroyed in the process of opening them. If only for this reason, early dust jackets are exceptionally rare and valuable for collectors.