The Gakubushi Frame Cover (left), circa 1956
The covers of very earliest Blue Note, Prestige, Atlantic and no doubt others labels have a cover construction method referred to by the Japanese word “gakubushi” meaning a “frame cover”. They appear in the mid Fifties, and the evidence of frame construction can be helpful in determining the issue date of a pressing, being a first or later pressing.
In a “frame cover”, the paper from the back sleeve has been folded around the cover and appears in front, under the art sleeve paper, creating a shadow line not unlike a frame, about a half inch wide, along two edges. The frame cover is with two frame stripes only, never four all around.
On Blue Note records (12″ LP) the gakubushi frame cover is found on the earliest releases of 1500 to 1543, with Lexington label, from 1956 to 1957. The cover is not laminated like later covers in the Sixties, and there is no printing of the record title on the spine, a practice which came later with more sophisticated printing technology. The records themselves are heavy flat-edge vinyl with the characteristic deep groove die impression within the label, and hand-written initials RVG in the run-out.
Gakubushi frame covers were replaced by more sophisticated printing and assembly methods a short time later, where the front cover appeared flat and level.