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Publishers' Bookbindings: Resources

A guide to decorative books in special and circulating collections at Brooklyn College Library, and research resources for related topics.

Researching Publisher's Bindings

Below are some helpful hints on finding more information on Publisher's Binding and designers:

  • Book cover designers were often credited on the title page when they also provided some kind of illustration; the artist's monogram on the cover or title page design is rarely mentioned in the library catalog, WorldCat, or Google Books.
  • Frequently, books from the 1880s-1920 were rebound (re-covered with a new spine and covers in order to preserve the book). Some of these rebound books were scanned by Google Books and are found on Hathi Trust and other digital collections. Digital versions of these books appear online, but may not feature the original book design.
  • Advertisements may not be listed in print or electronic indexes; find publications that contain book reviews and scroll through advertisements, frequently listed by publisher
  • Full-text Search:
    • Captions for illustrations may/may not be included in full-text searching
    • OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is a mechanical or electronic conversion of images to text, and facilitates full-text search of digitized materials. NOTE: this can affect search results.  

Primary Resources on Book Cover Design

In addition to the books and resources listed in this guide, information on publishers' bindings can be found in primary source material, much of which is available online. A few key types include:

  • Trade Magazines (Publishers' Weekly, the Book Buyer, the Bookman), which may have useful:
    • Advertisements
    • Articles about authors
    • Articles about publishers
    • Book reviews
  • Publishers' Catalogs
  • Exhibition Catalogs

Publishing Trade Journals

Bookbinding Terminology & Dictionaries

Greenfield, Jane.
ABC of bookbinding : an unique glossary with over 700 illustrations for collectors & librarians.

New Castle, DE : Oak Knoll Press ; New York, NY : Lyons Press, 1998.

Lhotka, Edward R.
ABC of leather bookbinding : an illustrated manual on traditional bookbinding.

New Castle, DE : Oak Knoll Press, 2000.


Bookbinding, Book Design, Paper

  • Cox, Alfred J. The making of the book: a sketch of the book-binding art. New Castle, Del. : Oak Knoll Books, 1986, c1985.
  • Foot, Mirjam M. Bookbinders at work: their roles and methods. London : British Library ; New Castle, DE : Oak Knoll Press, 2006.
  • Hand bookbinding today, an international art an exhibition organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in cooperation with The Hand Bookbinders of California. San Francisco : San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1978.
  • Ikegami, Kōjirō Japanese bookbinding: instructions from a master craftsman. New York: Weatherhill, 1986
  • Johnson, Arthur W. The Thames and Hudson manual of bookbinding: with 270 illustrations, in color and black and white. London; New York : Thames and Hudson, 1981, c1978.

Book Conservation & Preservation

The restoration of leather bindings by Bernard C. Middleton

New Castle, DE : Oak Knoll Press ; London : British Library, 1998.


The Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC)

Free Resources on Preservation, Conservation, and further reading suggestions.

Recommended Reading

  • Allen, Sue. "Machine-Stamped Bookbindings, 1834–1860." Antiques 115 (March 1979): 564–572; reprinted in Guild of Book Workers Journal 18 (1979–80): 1–23.
  • Allen, Sue and Charles Gullans. Decorated Cloth in America: Publishers’ Bindings, 1840–1910. Los Angeles: William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, 1994.
  • Ball, Douglas. Victorian Publishers’ Binding. Williamsburg, VA: Bookpress, 1985.
  • Comparato, Frank E. Books for the Millions. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1971.
  • Gaskell, Philip. A New Introduction to Bibliography. London: Oxford University Press, 1972; corrected edition 1974; several times reprinted, most recently (2009) by Oak Knoll Press. Read pp. 146–153 ("Binding") and 230–250 ("Edition Binding").
  • Gullans, Charles B. and John J. Espey. "American Trade Bindings and Their Designers 1880–1915." In Collectible Books, edited by Jean Peters, 32–67. New York: Bowker, 1979.
  • Miller, Julia. Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Bindings. Ann Arbor, MI: Legacy Press, 2010. Read Chapter 4, pp. 135–191.
  • Morris, Ellen. The Art of Publishers’ Bookbindings, 1815–1915. Los Angeles: William Daley Rare Books, Ltd., [2000].
  • Pickwoad, Nicholas. "The Origins and Development of Adhesive Case Bindings." Jaarboek voor Nederlandse Boekgeschiedenis 19 (2012): 117–130.
  • Pickwoad, Nicholas. "Onward and Downward: How Binders Coped with the Printing Press before 1800." In A Millennium of the Book: Production, Design, and Illustration in Manuscript and Print, 900–1900, edited by Robin Myers and Michael Harris, 61–106. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 1994.

Books about Publishers' Bindings