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Rare Book School at the University of Virginia

Rare Book School
Preliminary Reading List

Introduction to the History of Bookbinding

Jan Storm van Leeuwen


Preliminary Advices

Please read or at least look carefully at as many as possible of the following books before coming to Charlottesville. I will be handing out a much more detailed bibliography in class.

  1. Paul Needham. Twelve centuries of bookbinding: 400-1600. NY: Pierpont Morgan Library, 1979. Catalog of a celebrated exhibition, and a broad survey of the whole field.
  2. Mirjam M. Foot. The history of bookbinding as a mirror of society. London: British Library, 1998. The 1997 Panizzi Lectures. Why we should study bookbindings.
  3. Nicholas Pickwoad. "Onward and downward; how binders coped with the printing press before 1800"; pp 61-106 in A millennium of the book: production, design, and illustration in manuscript and print, 900-1900, ed. Robin Myers. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 1994. How changes in the printing and distribution of books can influence binding techniques.
  4. Margaret Lock. Bookbinding Materials and Techniques, 1700-1920. Toronto: The Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild, 2003.
  5. Howard M. Nixon and Mirjam M. Foot. The history of decorated bookbinding in England. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992. The first more or less complete survey of bookbinding in Britain, written by Nixon and finished by Foot after his death.
  6. E. Ph. Goldschmidt. Gothic & Renaissance bookbindings, exemplified and illustrated from the author's collection. 2 vols. London: Ernest Benn, 1928, rep Nieuwkoop, 1967. An early demonstration of the utility of studying and cataloging a binder's finishing tools, and containing good examples of binding descriptions. The Nieuwkoop reprint is seldom found in the United States, and copies of the original edition are very expensive; but there are many copies in libraries; take a look at one you can.
  7. Anthony Hobson. Renaissance book collecting; Jean Grolier and Diego Hurtado de mendoza, their books and bindings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Hobson shows how collectors and their books (and bindings) influence each other and our understanding of their activities.
  8. Bindings at the British Library: http://prodigi.bl.uk/bindings/. Philipa Marks has already put up the images and short descriptions of over 2000 bindings.
  9. David Pearson. English Bookbinding Styles 1450-1800, A Handbook. London, Newcastle 2005.
  10. Additional Readings

  11. Douglas Cockerell. Bookbinding and the care of books: a textbook for bookbinders and librarians. London, 1901 (or any subsequent edition). Though outdated in some respects, this remains the clearest and most concise account of hand bookbinding in English.
  12. Bryn Mawr College. Bookbinding in America 1680-1910: from the collection of Frederick E. Maser. With an essay by Willman Spawn. Bryn Mawr: Bryn Mawr College Library, 1983. Willman Spawn is our greatest expert on American bindings.