13. Publishers' Bookbindings, 1830-1910

Sue Allen
(Evaluation of the RBS 1994 version of this course)

The study of publishers' bookbindings, chiefly in the United States, but with frequent reference to England, and occasional reference to Continental developments. Topics include: the rise of the edition binder; design styles and how they developed; new techniques, machines, and materials introduced in the 19th century; the identification of rarities; the physical description of bindings; the preservation of publishers' bindings. The course will make extensive use of the Book Arts Press's notable collection of 19th-century binding exemplars.

1. How useful were the pre-course readings?

1: Pre-course readings were very helpful, although I was unable to get every one. Copies of additional articles were passed out during class and they were also good. 2: Good background. There was one article on color identification systems for use in cataloging that was uninteresting. 3: The readings were quite interesting in preparing for the course, but I think I will review, if not re-read, most of them now as I will have a richer understanding of their meaning. Although it was not necessary for the course, I particularly enjoyed the biography of J. Fields. 4: Only read one that was copied for me by one of last year's students. 5: Will use the list for post-course reference. 6: The list was very useful, but I could find very few of the readings. What I did read was helpful. 7: Very -- I at least had a sense of background and process in the abstract sense. 8: Very useful. 9: Thought they were valuable to course, but also think if one reads only minimally from the list one can still keep up with the pace of the course. SA is such a good teacher that one does not need to rely on readings to understand material. 10: Very useful. It was hard to pick selectively from an extensive list, but nevertheless it provided excellent background preparation. 11: Not necessary for the course and that was as it should be. The instructor eventually gave what was needed in class to apprehend the material and its significance. I will now enjoy reading the references after the course; indeed, I am eager to. 12: Very good -- but I didn't really do all the preparation I should have. 13: Excellent -- I did not have the time to read them all, but I will continue reading until my next RBS course. 14: Pre-course readings were informative. I did not read the selections on the mechanical processes -- these would have provided additional understanding and depth but were not necessary. 15: What I could get was good, although I spent time reading about paper and leather as much as about cloth. This was good for me, though, so I think I should just say that they were good.

2. Was your faculty member well-prepared to teach THIS course?

1: This is the best instructor I have ever had in my career. She was knowledgeable, interesting, entertaining, but most importantly, she was inspiring. She has given me many ideas that I would like to pursue. 2: Yes. I would not have minded receiving more photocopied handouts, though. For future classes, the ``Dating 19th Century Cloth'' study guide could be given out early in the week. I found it useful. Also, I would like to see SA's writings readily available for all students, and a list of new articles and publications to look out for. I would hate to miss any! 3: Absolutely! The presentation of the material by decades gave rational order to what otherwise might be an incomprehensible chaos of detail. 4: Of course! 5: Yes -- very much so. 6: Yes. SA is a great teacher and well prepared to teach this course. 7: Oh yes. Extremely! 8: Very well prepared. 9: Exceptionally so. Lectures were so clearly thought out and so carefully prepared -- full of vivid language and meticulously researched and presented with easy enthusiasm. 10: Absolutely!! 11: Absolutely yes. 12: Indeed, superbly prepared. 13: SA is one of the best instructors I have ever had. Not only is she a noted authority on the subject, but she has excellent teaching skills which allow her to communicate her knowledge and excitement to all levels of students. 14: Extremely. SA, along with her assistant Scott Fennessey, covered a lot of material with seeming ease. Occasionally, especially at the end of the day, we had to rush a bit too fast for the class to assimilate the material fully, but a review the following morning rectified that. 15: Yes.

3. Was the intellectual level of the course content appropriate?

1: The intellectual content was appropriate to the subject matter. The instructor's authority and expertise was very apparent at all times. 2: Yes. 3: Yes, and I greatly enjoyed the constant passing mentions of the history, culture, literature, and commerce of the time. 4: Tops! 5: Yes. 6: Yes, very much. 7: Yes. 8: Very appropriate. 9: Yes. SA combined history and anecdote and investigative reporting and show-and-tell and archeology in a very stimulating way. She made us think what I describe as intellectual. Also, she made connections with architecture, history, furniture, etc., and was very successful in this interdisciplinary approach. Her final presentation on preservation and social trends was very provocative. 10: Most definitely so. 11: Yes. 12: Great. 13: It was appropriate to all levels and types of individuals. 14: Yes, it was. 15: Yes. She is an excellent instructor -- her interest in and awareness of the historical, economic, and cultural events that influenced structure, style, etc., was wonderful. So we learned the specific and the general in a wonderfully integrated way.

4. If your course had field trips, were they effective?

1: Looking at books in both Special Collections and in the Rotunda made the course content more clear and illustrated the different decades and physical features of the various books and designs. 2: Special Collections was interesting. I was glad, though, that the director did not go on and on about the manuscripts. He was good about limiting himself to 15 minutes -- our visit was short and time spent with the collection's books was appreciated. Especially great were our three Rotunda visits. The Dome Room would have been a perfect classroom all week long. 3: Yes, very much so. The time in the Rotunda might have been spent more efficiently if a large group of books had been pre-chosen and every student given a few to discuss. (However, there was a thrill of discovery that would be lost and my suggestion would not be necessary if the class size were smaller.) 4: Yes! 5: Absolutely. 6: Yes, our class made use of Special Collections and I wish that we could have had more time to see all of it. 7: Yes; the time in Special Collections was perhaps too short, but otherwise useful. The three trips to the Dome Room were crucial to this course -- there's nothing like free-ranging about in a large collection and being able to ask questions on the spot. 8: Several trips to the Rotunda were very useful. 9: Yes -- our visits to the Rotunda and the opportunity to touch, see, consider the books in those cases was extremely beneficial to the course. 10: Yes -- the sessions in the Rotunda gave us the opportunity to test out our newly acquired knowledge. SA was gracious with her kind compliments, congratulating us when we did well. 11: Absolutely yes. 12: Yes. It could have had somewhat better cooperation from Special Collections as far as the preparation of the room was concerned. 13: We had an excellent introduction to the treasures of Special Collections. It was an honor to see and hold first editions of so many American literary treasures. 14: Yes. Exposure to the books in the Rotunda and our presentations on books we selected provided real hands-on experience with identification of bindings of various decades and our facility with expressing our newly gained knowledge. 15: It was fine -- the time in the Rotunda was excellent. Thanks, Terry, for accumulating such great books!

5. Did the actual course content correspond to its RBS brochure description and Expanded Course Description? Did the course in general meet your expectations?

1: It more than met my expectations and was accurately described in the brochure. 2: Yes. I left the class with unanswered questions about the development of the earliest cloth case bindings and their identification, but this was clearly not in the scope of the course. 3: Yes -- I'm actually happily surprised to see that we were able to go into more depth on die manufacturing practices than I expected. 4: More than met my expectations. 5: Yes! 6-7: Yes. 8: Description corresponded well. Course exceeded expectations -- SA's a terrific teacher. 9: Absolutely. Absolutely. I feel comfortable identifying books from 1830-1910 decade by decade. SA gets all credit for teaching me this. It's more than I had hoped to be able to do. 10: Followed true to form. I was uncertain beforehand that there would be enough that was pertinent for me, but SA has given me a new pair of eyes to re- examine my collections. 11: A) Yes. B) Yes. Would have liked a more expanded view, however, of leather bindings and English books in general as a background. 12: Yes. Yes. 13: The course content is accurately represented in all of the mediums in which it was advertised. The course itself greatly exceeded my expectations. I can't wait to come to RBS again. 14: Yes. It exceeded my expectations. 15: Yes. Yes. I've heard SA lecture twice before. She is organized, thoughtful, prepared, cogent. It was great, and my expectations were high.

6. What did you like best about the course?

1: The instructor's love and contagious enthusiasm for the subject. 2: Our time in the Rotunda identifying examples and describing them. Our class was on the large size for this exercise, though, but it was very interesting. 3: The combination of the comprehensive view of the period with small details that brought the history to life. I feel that SA's greatest strength as an instructor, other than her infec- tious enthusiasm, is her ability to draw you back in time to appreciate the innovations of the era. 4: SA's personality, knowledge, examples. 5: The hands-on approach -- the complete knowledge and experience of SA -- made the course delightful and very useful. 6: SA made us like the c19 century book more than before we took the course. 7: The freedom to ask questions as they occurred -- especially when we looked at individual examples. 8: Expert focus on subject material. Lectures reinforced by many examples. 9: SA's person; her slide presentation (kudos to Greer & SA for such clear, vivid slides -- well presented in color contrast, position, etc.); her lectures; touching the books; SA's generosity in sharing knowledge and opinions. Basically, the entire course was fantastic. Wish it lasted longer than five days. 10: SA's warmth and charming manner are infectious! Selecting a ``model'' book from each decade offered a very organized progression, giving a good feel for continuum and development. 11: The tactile, laboratory nature of it and the sincere and dedicated guidance of the instructor. In every way the course was an eye opener. I am glad to take away a new vision. 12: Personality and enthusiasm of the instructor in dealing with material she obviously knew thoroughly. 13: The instructor whose skills and knowledge have already been detailed. 14: The instructor. SA's warmth, humor, and enthusiasm imbued her teaching with a rare sense of love of the material. In no other RBS course have I found all the qualities of the best teachers combined in a single individual. 15: SA. The avalanche of material was amazing, too! Actually, the case histories and studies of individual designers were excellent.

7. How could the course have been improved?

2: The first two days of class were very intense and exciting. The end of the week was a big change of gears: time was spent prepping slide carousels and the amount of information was much less. Maybe the early decades (1830-80) could be spread out over another day. I felt we spent too much time on the signed designer bindings of the 90s and later. 5: No suggestions, but perhaps some coverage of earlier processes of bindings as an overview leading towards the c19. 7: Perhaps more ``book- end'' information -- what happened in binding before cloth was introduced, what happened after 1910 (nothing elaborate -- 10 minutes each? 20?); perhaps this could be compensated for by less of Sarah Wyman Whitman and Walter Crane. 9: The only thing was that the ``critiques'' of Rotunda books went on too long. There should have been a limit of two books. We tended to become too rambling. 10: Put us in a larger room with more space for the instructor to bring the books around. 11: On the assumption that anything can be improved, even though it need not be, I would like to suggest that the checklist of identifying characteristics given in the review at the end of the course be introduced at the beginning. This could also be prepared as a handout. 12: I would not structure it any further nor cram any more material into it. It's just fine as it is. 13: The only suggestion I have deals with physical arrangements -- all those stairs to use a limited number of pay telephones. It would be nice if you could provide elevator access for people who truly needed this -- one man was in his 70s and obviously had difficulty negotiating the stairways of Alderman and the Rotunda. 14: It was nearly perfect! Pacing (as mentioned above) could be adjusted, but really that is just quibbling. 15: Had we been slightly fewer people it might have been better. If the course had been longer we could have covered even more material. That's about all I can see. In some ways the Rotunda visits were chaotic since we were trying to listen to people describing and looking at passed books at the same time. I see no way around this though and really the sheer volume of the experience was helpful.

8. Any final thoughts?

1: Bring photographs or rubbings of books in your collec- tion that you have questions about. 2: I was glad to have spent a few days preparing for this course by really taking a close look at the books in our collection that I thought might pertain to the class. The rubbings I made of books from our collection, which I had questions about, were useful and I referred to them throughout the week. I'm returning to our collection with excitement and enthusiasm to see our c19 books with new eyes! 5: [Evening] guest lecturers should be chosen for their known ability to give an interesting, amusing, anecdotal talk without reading. They should be non-technical as students have been at it all day. I would prefer slides and interesting topics from a dynamic speaker. 6: Yes, I would advise others to take this course. 7: I would absolutely recommend this course to anyone! You certainly learn information that's bibliographically essential, but you also learn an aesthetic appreciation of c19 taste -- and I certainly have a better sense of the history of the book! 9: Take it soon. 10: Do as much of the advance reading as possible. Take it!! It is a refreshing look at a beautiful age. 11: I would have liked more individual time in Special Collections's McGregor Room, approximately the same amount of time as we spent with the books in the Rotunda. The individual time spent with the Rotunda collection was immensely valuable in internalizing the principles taught. 13: This is a wonderful course -- take it and learn to appreciate truly the book as an art form. 14: No. 15: No, I'm tired. Just tell them it's good.

Number of respondents: 15


Leave           Tuition       Housing       Travel

Institution     Institution   Institution   Institution
gave me leave   paid tuition  paid housing  paid travel

73%             50%           30%           30%

I took vaca-    I paid tui-   I paid for my I paid my own
tion time       tion myself   own housing   travel

0%              23%           43%           43%

N/A: self-      N/A: Self-    N/A: stayed   N/A: lived 
employed, re-   employed,     with friends  nearby
tired, or had   retired, or                 or lived at
summers off     exchange                    home

27%             27%           27%           27%

Five students (33%) were conservator/binder/preservation librarians; three students (20%) were rare book librarians; two students (13%) were antiquarian booksellers; two (13%) were general librarians; and one student (7% each) directed a friends of the library book sale, was a full-time student, or a management consultant/antiquarian bookseller.