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

IV. Classical Motifs > Introduction

The late eighteenth century's fascination with classical design, stimulated by the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum, continued into the nineteenth century, fueled by further archaeological discoveries. Classical ornamental patterns- particularly, Greek key and egg-and-dart patterns-had been used on late eighteenth-century deluxe, hand-decorated bindings. Eventually classical motifs and imagery were translated into the very popular medium of gold-stamped publishers' bindings. Often they appeared on books with classical subject matter, but perhaps just as often they appeared on books where the subjects were not overtly related, such as volumes of contemporary poetry. Sometimes classical motifs could be combined with other imagery to confusing effect, as in the volume of Samuel Goodrich's poems, which features a Greek vase on its cover but a thoroughly nineteenth-century fairy on its spine.

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