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Preliminary Reading List

B-10. Introduction to the History of Bookbinding

Jan Storm van Leeuwen


Preliminary Advices

Please read—or at least look carefully at—as many as possible of the following books before coming to Charlottesville. The workbook will contain a more detailed bibliography.

  1. Needham, Paul. Twelve centuries of bookbinding: 400-1600. NY: Pierpont Morgan Library, 1979. Catalog of a celebrated exhibition, and a broad survey of the whole field.
  2. Foot, Mirjam J. The history of bookbinding as a mirror of society. London: British Library, 1998. The 1997 Panizzi Lectures. Why we should study bookbindings.
  3. Pickwoad, Nicholas. "Onward and downward: how binders coped with the printing press before 1800"; pp 61-106 in A millennium of the book: production, design, and illustration in manuscript and print, 900-1900, ed. Robin Myers. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 1994. How changes in the printing and distribution of books can influence binding techniques.
  4. Lock, Margaret. Bookbinding Materials and Techniques, 1700-1920. Toronto: The Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild, 2003.
  5. Nixon, Howard M. and Mirjam M. Foot. The history of decorated bookbinding in England. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992. The first more or less complete survey of bookbinding in Britain, written by Nixon and finished by Foot after his death.
  6. Goldschmidt, E. Ph. Gothic & Renaissance bookbindings, exemplified and illustrated from the author's collection. 2 vols. London: Ernest Benn, 1928, Repr. Nieuwkoop, 1967. An early demonstration of the utility of studying and cataloging a binder's finishing tools, and containing good examples of binding descriptions. The Nieuwkoop reprint is seldom found in the United States, and copies of the original edition are very expensive, but there are many copies in libraries; take a look at one if you can.
  7. Pearson, David. English Bookbinding Styles 1450-1800, A Handbook. London, Newcastle 2005. A very useful work for dating English bindings with overviews of tools and types of design per period.
  8. Bennett, Stuart. Trade bookbinding in the British Isles 1660-1800. New Castle, London: 2004. Not an easy book to read, but with basic information on the subject.
  9. Allen, Sue and Charles Gullans. Decorated cloth in America: publishers’ bindings 1840-1910. [Los Angeles]: 1994. Although the book deals with no more than John Feely and his stamps (Allen) and the designs by Sarah Whitman and Frank Hazen, it is one of the more fundamental works on the history of the publisher’s binding in America.

    Additional Readings

  1. Cockerell, Douglas. Bookbinding and the care of books: a textbook for bookbinders and librarians. London: 1901 (or any subsequent edition). Though outdated in some respects, this remains the clearest and most concise account of hand bookbinding in English.
  2. Bryn Mawr College. Bookbinding in America 1680-1910: from the collection of Frederick E. Maser. With an essay by Willman Spawn. Bryn Mawr: Bryn Mawr College Library, 1983. Willman Spawn was the greatest expert on American bindings.
  3. McLean, Rauri. Victorian publishers’ book-bindings in cloth and leather. London: 1974.
  4. McLean, Rauri. Victorian publishers’ book-bindings in paper. London: 1983. Although both books contain little text, they are important for the subject matter.
  5. Miller, Julia. Books will Speak Plain: a handbook for identifying and describing historical bindings. Ann Arbor: 2010.
  6. Miller, Julia, ed. Suave Mechanicals: essays on the history of bookbinding. Volume I. Ann Arbor: 2013.
  7. Tanselle, G. Thomas. Book-jackets, their history, forms, and use. Charlottesville: 2011. One of the few existing publications on the subject.