Case 4: Beautiful Bindings


Throughout the nineteenth century, it became increasingly common for publishers—rather than booksellers or individual customers—to determine how books were bound. For volumes intended by the publisher to be sold already bound, a book's outer appearance became an important marketing feature. The need for attractive and economical bindings led to important innovations, many of which first appeared on a mass-market scale on the covers of annuals. The introduction of new binding materials, especially cloth, changed the way annuals, and indeed books in general, were bound in the mid-nineteenth century. New machines such as the powerful Imperial arming press and the fly embossing press mechanized processes that had previously been done by hand (see Twyman). While minimal gold details had been a feature of a select number of early annuals, the time and labor it took to apply gold by hand made it uneconomical. By the 1830s, machines enabled the increased use of gold blocking. Similarly, leather and silk embossed bindings became a relatively standard feature of annuals as more powerful presses could be used to produce elaborate, lasting embossed images on a variety of materials. In order to display these new techniques and accommodate the growing importance of large engravings, the size of annuals also began to grow. No longer pocket-books for carrying but royal octavos and folios for display, the impressive dimensions of annuals such as Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap-Book and The Oriental Annual allowed larger canvases for binders to display their expertise.

 

Item No. 17: Gilt and Gold

In addition to gilt-edged pages—a feature of annuals like The Keepsake and The Amulet—publishers began to use gold to adorn the bindings of their annuals. The application of gold ranged from simple titles on spines to elaborate cover designs such as the one pictured here on the bottle green morocco leather binding of The Oriental Annual for 1839. While gold was used on annual bindings in the 1820s, it was only in the mid-1830s that machines such as the Imperial arming press enabled the mechanized production of covers with extensive gold-blocked designs.


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Items No. 18a and No. 18b: Silk

Bound in regal purple watered, or moiré, silk, The Amulet for 1828 entered the publishing market in a new form. Silk bindings were a new innovation in Britain, and the preface to the volume proclaims its "more tasteful and elegant appearance." The spine of the volume, pictured here, is one of the first examples of gold blocking on silk. Because of silk's weakness as a binding material, The Amulet came with a protective slipcase elaborately decorated with steel-plate engravings pasted onto cardboard.


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Items No. 19a and No. 19b: Embossed Leather

From the binder's ticket on the inside back cover of this copy of The Remembrance for 1831, we know that it was bound and embossed by the London firm Remnant and Edmonds. The volume is bound in embossed maroon morocco leather, and the spine has been blocked in gold. The cover was created using a fly embossing press. The leather was placed between a heated die and a counter die. When pressed between them with the great force of the machine, the leather adopted the raised pattern of the die.


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Items No. 20a and No. 20b: Stamped Cloth

Stamped cloth binding was introduced in 1823, with its popularity soaring from around 1830 to the 1850s. Cloth was much less expensive than leather, and many annual publications turned to cloth bindings in the late 1820s. This copy of Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap-Book for 1837 is bound in pink silk that has been stamped with a morocco-grain pattern to make it look like leather. The entire cover has also been embossed with an elaborate design, and the center picture has been blocked in gold, probably with an Imperial arming press.


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[click image to enlarge]
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Last updated September 2012