Highlights from the Kathleen V. Roberts Collection of Decorated Publishers Bindings

The Industrial Revolution of the 19th century made the mass-production of books possible. To promote sales, publishers produced beautifully decorated book covers known as decorated publishers’ bindings. Books were bound in colorful cloth and elaborately decorated with silver and gold, reflecting the tastes of the age.

Publishers’ use of color, style, and design was affected by social events including the Civil War, Japan’s opening to the west, and the employment of women as designers. Bindings in this exhibit reflect design influences from Victorian opulence to the Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco movements.

Decade by decade, we see the arc of publishers’ bindings: from their experimental beginnings in the 1840s, through their turn-of-the-century apex as artist-designed masterworks, to their demise with the rise of the inexpensive dust jacket.


1840s-1860s Experimentation, Exuberance & Civil War Restraint

1870s-1890s Victorian Opulence

1890s-1920s The Artist as Designer

1890s-1920s Women as Artist Designers

1890s-1920s Series Bindings in Focus: Bound to Sell

1890s-1920s Books of Beauty: A Holistic Approach

European Origin: Art Nouveau in the Belle Epoque

The Dust Jacket Reveal

Login or activate free Registration to access exhibit pages.



For more information about any book in this exhibition, click its image and its online catalog entry will open in another window. To see the entire Roberts Collection of Decorated Publishers’ Bindings, visit our Online Catalog.

© 2014-2020 American Bookbinders Museum