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

V. Gift Books > Introduction

Gift books -- anthologies of prose, verse, and illustration, edited and packaged to be elegant gifts --began to appear in the 1820s. Publishers vied for the attention of the book-buying public with new and improved styles of bindings. The earliest covers, of engraved or embossed paper with cloth spines, were replaced by covers of silk or embossed leather. The advent of the stamping press and of cloth cases meant that elaborate gold designs could be offered at lower prices than the older embossed ones. The 1830s and 1840s were the heyday of these volumes. They were created to be given as gifts, and their bindings were, so to speak, their wrappings.

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