The Bookbinders Directory was compiled through archival research, bookbinders tickets, and other items from the collection. The directory aims to illuminate the variety and spread of bookbinders throughout the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries.The ABM makes no claim as to its completeness.
Currently, the directory is in stasis. No information is being added or removed.
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.
Sue Allen (d. 25 August 2011), whose writings, research, and especially her teaching, created the field of study of nineteenth-century American book covers. Her Rare Book School course “Publishers’ Bookbindings, 1830–1910,” was the inspiration for both this collection and exhibit. I am honored to carry on her work.
Todd Pattison, Rare Book School instructor, book conservator and binder, whose 1995 course on early cloth bindings changed the trajectory of my life.
Richard Minsky, collector, author and book artist, who taught me to look at binding design through the eyes of an artist.
Andrea Krupp, for her pioneering work on the study and identification of Bookcloth grains and patterns.
Ben Koenig, Vermont bookseller and friend, whose belief in my collection enabled it to find a home at the American Bookbinders Museum.
Don't know where to start? Curious about a particular designer? Try searching for "Margaret Armstrong" to see all the bindings in the collection designed by her. Want to explore by era? Search "1880s" to see all the bindings that were designed in that decade.
The Kathleen V. Roberts Collection is the work of many years of collecting and it highlights the changing styles and aesthetics of the decades of cloth-bound publishers' bindings, from their beginnings in the 1830s, to their gradual decline in favor of printed dust jackets in the early 20th century.