Volume 13 - Spring 2002


A late 'Victorian' Taste in Bookbinding

Published in the British Bookbinder, July 1890

It is a disputed question, among book-lovers of taste, whether the whole of a small collection should be bound in the same material and of the same colour, or whether diversity should prevail. There are valid reasons for either plan. A library where both morocco and calf bindings are adopted, in the various hues which are given to each leather, has a pleasant and lively appearance. If glaring contrasts in hues be avoided in neighbouring volumes, as they stand upon the shelves, an air of lightness and vivacity will characterise the apartment. But the contrast must by no means be too pronounced. Dr. Diblin, a great authority on all such matters, warns us especially against the employment of either white vellum or scarlet morocco as a material for the jackets of our volumes. Both are too decided in appearance, and impart a 'spotty' look to the shelves. Of course this objection applies only to single volumes or small sets in libraries of limited extent. If for instance, a whole press, or set of shelves, could be appropriated to vellum-clad volumes of the Fathers and patristic theology, the effect would be good. The decision on the general question of uniformity versus variety must be left in great measure to individual taste.

Where the collection is small, say, sufficient to fill two ordinary bookcases (about 500 volumes), an excellent plan is to reserve one case for standard English authors, and bestow in the other, works on science, art, travel, foreign books, etc. Let all the bindings be of morocco, either 'whole' binding or 'half'' binding according to the value and importance of the book. If maroon morocco be chosen for the books in the first press, an olive green for those in the second, the effect will be chaste and massive. Both these leathers 'throw up' the gilding of the back splendidly. Where expense is not a primary consideration, the back should not be scrimped in this matter of gilding, or, as it is technically termed, 'finishing'. A morocco-bound book should bear a good amount of gold on the back; but the patterns of the tools should be carefully selected.


Skin Deep - Volume 13 - Spring 2002

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