The Printed Book

by Harry G. Aldis, M.A. Cambridge at the University Press 1916

Book Bookbinding Part 8

The Harleian style, so called because it was used for the great collection of Robert Harley, first Earl of Oxford (d. 1724), consists of an ornate centre piece, generally diamond shaped, with a broad tooled border. Roger Payne, one of the best and most conscientious workmen of the second half of the eighteenth century, has acquired a wider fame than any other English binder, partly owing to the curiously detailed form in which he presented his bills. He worked chiefly in Russia leather and straight-grained morocco, and bestowed his most elaborate decoration upon the backs of the books, leaving the sides comparatively plain. His traditions were carried on by Charles Hering and others, including Charles Lewis who bound many of the Althorp books, and Kalthoeber who revived the art of painting pictures on the edges of books under the gold. In this method of decoration, of which Edwards, a Halifax binder, is the best known exponent, the painting on the edges of the book shews only when the leaves are fanned out, and is completely hidden lmder the gold when the book is shut.

Francis Bedford, at one time a partner of Lewis, was one of the most noted binders of the nineteenth century and bears a reputation for sound workmanship. In recent times conspicuously good work has been done in the designing and execution of gold-tooled bindings by both amateur and professional binders. In this movement a leading part has been taken by Mr Cobden- Sanderson, Mr Douglas Cockerell, and Miss S. T. Prideaux; and, largely due to their teaching and practice, it is now well recognized that no exterior decoration of a book, however artistically designed and skillfully executed, can make a satisfactory binding unless it is combined with equal attention to the principles of sound forwarding. It is the custom in this country and in America to issue new books in cloth binding, but on the continent the practice of publishing new books in paper covers still obtains. On the assumption that a book will either be read and thrown away, or bound and put on the shelf, the paper cover might be considered adequate to its purpose; but, since the cloth cover is fairly serviceable and presents a decent appearance on the shelf, besides being more comfortable to hold, it seems to be well worth the small initial extra cost.

Down to the early part of the nineteenth century trade bindings generally consisted of plain calf or sheep, or of boards covered in grey paper with a white label on the back. About 1820 the use of glazed calico was introduced, and some ten years later the fabric which goes under the name of cloth began to be specially manufactured for the covering of books. At first these covers were quite plain with paper labels on the back; but soon the sides were embossed by way of ornamentation, and gold lettering took the place of the paper label. Then, gold was employed for decoration as well as for lettering, and elaborate designs were devised, frequently covering the whole of the boards, especially in the pretentious volumes known as table books.