Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks
Devil May Care
by Sebastian Faulks
Die-cut car-shaped silhouette filled with a scale
model of a Bentley R-type.

Die-cutting is a printing process for cutting shapes in a material. It allows publishers to insert a ‘window’ into a book’s dust jacket, or a page or pages, or even a slipcase. Die-cuts are commonplace but many are elaborate or particularly eye-catching.

The most recent high profile addition to books featuring spectacular die-cuts is Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer. It combines art and literature, and has multiple die-cuts throughout the body of the book. Safran Foer wrote Tree of Codes by cutting pieces of text from his favorite book, The Street of Crocodiles - a collection of short stories about a merchant family in small town - by Polish Author Bruno Schulz.

Die-cuts are loved by art and photography book designers, who frequently create the effect of looking through a window into the book with something or someone interesting inside. Bullet holes are another common theme used to enhance the themes of drama and violence. The keyhole style can often be seen on the covers of pulp erotica paperbacks, hinting at what can be found inside. Sometimes designers forego the dust jacket all together and cut holes into the boards of the book.

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A Selection of Books with Die-Cuts

Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer
Tree of Codes
by Jonathan Safran Foer

Countless intricate die-cuts throughout the book - a remarkable piece of art.
Slam by Katinka Herbert
Slam
by Katinka Herbert

Created by design group FUEL, this Mexican wrestling book has a die-cut slipcase.
Lunar Park by Brett Easton Ellis
Lunar Park
by Brett Easton Ellis

This 2005 novel has a die-cut dust jacket.
The Year around Book by Jill Helen Fletcher
The Year around Book
by Jill Helen Fletcher

Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney - a die-cut cover from 1965.
I by Stephen Dixon
I
by Stephen Dixon

Published by McSweeney’s, illustrated by Daniel Clowes with a die-cut front board
Sniffing Keyholes by Harold Norse
Sniffing Keyholes
by Harold Norse

Beat literature with a die-cut keyhole cover design featuring a lady undressing.
Snowblind by Robert Sabbag & Damien Hirst
Snowblind
by Robert Sabbag & Damien Hirst

Die-cut trench runs through the pages of this cult book about a cocaine smuggler.
Joseph Cornell: Dovecotes, Hotels and Other White Spaces by Joseph Cornell
Joseph Cornell: Dovecotes, Hotels and Other White Spaces
by Joseph Cornell

Die-cut window on front cover and a second die-cut on the half-title page of this art book.
Pop Art One edited by Dorothy Herzka (Roy Lichtenstein)
Pop Art One
edited by Dorothy Herzka (Roy Lichtenstein)

Double plastic comb bound die-cut portfolio format - pages are cut vertically at the center.
Clock Without Hands by Carson McCullers
Clock Without Hands
by Carson McCullers

Die-cut circle with glassine window on the front panel of the jacket for this 1961 novel.
The History of Surrealist Painting by Jean Marcel (trans by Simon Watson Taylor)
The History of Surrealist Painting
by Jean Marcel (trans by Simon Watson Taylor)

The dust jacket has die-cut doors that open and close.
The Photographer and the City by Gail Buckland
The Photographer and the City
by Gail Buckland

An exhibition catalog with a die-cut portfolio. The book showcases photography of Chicago.
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The Yin & Yang Radio Repair Man
by Fielding Dawson

Published by Black Sparrow Press, this 1971 book has a die-cut front cover.
Killtown by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake)
Killtown
by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake)

A mass market thriller from 1971 featuring a bullet hole die-cut on the cover.
The Man with the Golden Gun by Ian Fleming
The Man with the Golden Gun
by Ian Fleming

This New American Library edition from 1965 features a dust jacket with six bullet holes.
Day of the Assassins by Johnny O’Brien
Day of the Assassins
by Johnny O’Brien

This 2009 edition from Templar has front boards featuring bullet holes.
Holy Clues: the Gospel According to Sherlock Holmes by Stephen Kendrick
Holy Clues: the Gospel According to Sherlock Holmes
by Stephen Kendrick

The cover of this 1999 book has a single die-cut hole.
John D: A Portrait in Oils by John K Winkler
John D: A Portrait in Oils
by John K Winkler

This 1929 book about John D. Rockefeller has a die-cut hole meant for a dime.
Border Film Project: Photos by Migrants & Minutemen on the U.S.-Mexico Border by Rudy Adler, Victoria Criado & Brett Huneycutt
Border Film Project: Photos by Migrants & Minutemen on the U.S.-Mexico Border
by Rudy Adler, Victoria Criado & Brett Huneycutt

This 2007 book has die-cut boards revealing a pair of photo portraits.
The System of the World by Neal Stephenson
The System of the World
by Neal Stephenson

A limited edition from Hillhouse Publishing with a die-cut on the slipcase.
The Story of the Heart by Sandra Magsamen
The Story of the Heart
by Sandra Magsamen

A red heart is cut-out on the front board of this 2001 book about love and romance.
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Tulip Obsessed: Stories, Facts, and Photographs for the Truly Obsessed
by Rebecca Cole

This book for people who love to tiptoe through the tulips has die-cut window on its front cover.
The Strain by Chuck Hogan & Guillermo del Toro
The Strain
by Chuck Hogan & Guillermo del Toro

This book comes with a die-cut gash across the cover.
Me a Mound by Trenton Doyle Hancock
Me a Mound
by Trenton Doyle Hancock

The dust jacket features three die-cut windows for this unusual art book.
A Simple Guide to Pictures by Mrs Henry Head
A Simple Guide to Pictures
by Mrs Henry Head

A central onlaid colour illustration to front board within blind-stamped panel.

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