Index Bookbindings
Aspects of the Victorian Book
  Production   Publishing
  Publishers’ bookbindings
 
   
 
Bookbindings  

Until the 1820s, most books were purchased in paper covers for the owner to have bound according to his own taste and pocket. These books would have been bound by hand in small workshops. During the nineteenth century, this practice was increasingly superseded by the mass production of publishers' bindings. In hand-bound books, the sewn text-block was laced into boards and then covered with leather or cloth. In publishers' bindings, the covers were made separately and in quantity, and were not an integral part of the structure.

Publishers' bindings became more sophisticated as the century progressed, reflecting both technological developments and artistic trends. Initially cloth was the favoured medium because it was cheaper and easier to work than leather, but a wide range of covering materials was used, including paper, papier-mâché, wood and even porcelain (as claimed by publisher Paul Jerrard). The number of patents relating to bookbinding increased throughout the century, although not all of them were implemented and many took decades to be adopted by the trade.

Design became increasingly important when publishers' names began to appear on the covers, and they encouraged bold or innovative designs which would distinguish their books from those of their rivals. Series such as Murray's Family Library and Bentley's Standard Novels, intended for the prospering middle classes, were fashionably yet inexpensively bound. Further impetus came from the strong demand, both at home and abroad, for cheap but decorative bindings for gift books, such as literary annuals or school prizes. Gradually bindings design became a recognised art in itself, although painters and artists like Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris and Charles Ricketts worked in the field too. The dominant figure within the trade was John Leighton (1822-1912), a nephew of the pioneer publishers' binder Archibald Leighton. Other practitioners included Albert Henry Warren (1830-1911), Henry Noel Humphreys (1810-1879) and William Harry Rogers (1825-1873).

Philippa Marks.

   
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