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Bookbindings in the British Library - searching for bookbindings

A wide range of fine and historic bindings can be found in the British Library, both in discrete specialist collections and dispersed individually throughout the Library. This page tells you how to identify and locate bindings in the Reading Rooms.

Many books with notable bindings can be found and ordered from storage by using Explore the British Library. Build up a keyword search using:

  • the word 'binding' and '[insert name of binder]', or
  • the word 'binding' and '[term of description]' (e.g. embroidered).

Please be aware that bindings notes on the catalogues are not comprehensive and may not be up to date.

The Database of Bookbindings is another way of identifying notable bindings in the Library's collections. The Database is freely available over the internet.

Check the reference works on bookbinding on the open shelves in the Reading Rooms, particularly around shelfmark RAR686.302 in the Rare Books & Music Reading Room. Many open shelf books feature British Library bindings.

The Department of Manuscripts has a non-current index recording bindings on early additions to its collections. This is 93*(B) vol III (2) 'Bindings etc' of the Class Catalogue, and can be found on the open shelves in the Manuscripts Reading Room.