Judging a Book by Its Cover: Gold-Stamped Publishers' Bindings of the 19th Century

Bibliography > An Informal Selected Bibliography of Books on 19th Century Publishers' Bindings

English bindings

John Carter's Publisher's cloth: an outline history of publisher's bindings in England 1820-1900 (New York: Bowker, 1935) is the standard history from a largely technological view.

A more recent overview of the history of English publisher’s bindings is found in Esther Potter’s article, "The Development of Publishers Bookbinding in the Nineteenth Century," in the Journal of the Printing Historical Society, No. 28, 1999, pp. 71-93.

An anecdotal approach is taken by the English collector, Robin de Beaumont, in the well-illustrated article "Nineteenth-Century Publishers' Bindings 1820-1900: A brief survey from my shelves" in The Private Library, 4th Series, vol. 9, no. 1, Spring 1996, pp. 146-185.

Standard references include Douglas Ball's Victorian Publishers' Bindings (London: Library Association, 1985) and the books by Ruari McLean, including Victorian Publishers' Book-bindings in cloth and leather (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1973).

For designer bindings from the latter part of the century, see Marianne Tidcombe’s "The Development of Modern Design in British Bookbinding," in The Private Library, 5th Series, vol. 1, no. 4, Winter 1998.

American bindings

Sue Allen’s Victorian Bookbindings: A Pictorial Survey (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972, reprinted 1976), is a nice overview of the American side. Unfortunately, the illustrations are on microfiche in a pocket in the back cover.

Decorated Cloth in America: Publishers' Bindings, 1840-1910 (Los Angeles: William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, 1994) is a very interesting book, although the title is a little misleading -- it is actually two essays, one by Sue Allen on John Feely, the other by Charles Gullans, on Sarah Whitman and Frank Hazen.

Joseph W. Rogers "The rise of American edition binding" in Bookbinding in America, ed. Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt (Portland, ME: Southworth-Anthoensen Press, 1941), discusses technological history.

For designer bindings, Nancy Finlay's Artists of the Book in Boston, 1890-1910 (Cambridge, MA: Houghton Library, 1985) is useful. Although the book focuses on Boston, it includes many of the more important American designers.

Contemporary accounts

Three readable accounts, although from the end of the period are: Brander Matthews, Bookbindings Old and New (1895), Commercial Bookbindings: An Historical Sketch, with Some Mention of an exhibition…at the Grolier Club (1894), and William Matthews, Modern Bookbinding Practically Considered (1889)

For a technical approach, most nineteenth century works on bookbinding are either devoted to case bindings, or have sections on case binding.

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