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Bindings and decorated papers

A wide range of fine and historic bindings can be found in the British Library, both dispersed individually throughout the Library and in discrete specialist collections. British and Continental bindings are particularly well represented, although there are also examples from the Near and Far East and from America.

Many interesting bindings are shelved in the Old Royal Library (books owned by the English monarchs from Edward IV to George II), the King's Library of George III, and the collections of CM Cracherode, and Thomas Grenville. Further information about these can be found in the directory of Named Collections of Printed Materials.

Commentarii by Galeazzo Capella

Commentarii by Galeazzo Capella. (Venice, 1539), bound for Giovanni. Battista Grimaldi. Shelfmark: Davis 766. ┬ęThe British Library Board

Highlights of the collections include:

  • The Henry Davis Gift (890 historic bindings, 12th to 20th century, mainly English and Continental);
  • The Charles Ramsden Collection (around 1,500 signed bindings, mainly 18th- and 19th-century, English and French);
  • The Jaffray Collection (170 items relating to the English binding trade, collected by the Victorian bookbinder John Jaffray);
  • The Franks Collection of armorial bindings (around 300 bindings, mainly English and French, 16th to 18th century);
  • The Olga Hirsch Collection of Decorated Papers (over 3,580 sheets, 130 books in paper wrappers or with decorated end-leaves, and a small collection of reference works).
Bindings from the Henry Davis Gift

Bindings from the Henry Davis Gift ┬ęThe British Library Board

Guide to Bookbindings in the British Library

Information about how to find notable bindings in the collections of the British Library, together with information about other published and non-published research resources, can be found in:

Guide to Bookbindings in the British Library

Database of Bookbindings

Since 1997, the Library has been compiling an image database of bookbindings covering Western European printed books. The database is freely available over the internet.

Philippa Marks
Curator of Bookbindings, Early Printed Collections
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7767
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7577