Bound for Beauty: Highlights from the Kathleen V. Roberts Collection of Decorated Publishers' Bindings
In the 19th century technologies of the Industrial Revolution made the mass-production of books possible. To sell them, 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 major social events such as the Civil War, the opening of Japan to the West, and the employment of women, and visual influences such as Victorian opulence, Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco movements.
When viewed by decade we see the arc of publishers’ bindings: from their experimental beginnings in the 1840’s, 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.