Over the last six weeks we’ve had a glimpse into the world of Victorian cloth bindings, from its humble beginnings in coloured cloths and paper labels to bindings ostentatiously covered in gilt, or a riot of colour.
Grains were invented to pattern the cloth, followed by the discovery of blocking the cloth itself, first in gold, then in blind, then in black, and finally in silver and colours. From bindings blocked in blind, with a touch of gilt, the 1850s saw the height of the use of gilt, its use obscuring the cloth itself.
We’ve seen developments in techniques, such as the use of onlays and inlays to provide colour, the use of a combination of contrasting cloths, and the development of blocking in colours other than black.
We’ve also seen developments in design. Titles came to dominate the cover, forming an integral part of the cover design. Lettering became more and more elaborate, often to the detriment of being able to read the words themselves.
From the 1870s covers became more pictorial, whether through onlays, pictorial vignettes, or making the whole cover a blocked illustration. Where appropriate cover pictures were taken from an illustration in the book.
Such was the draw of book bindings that designers and artists became involved in their design. They often signed their work, and reacted against the developments of the time, bringing bindings back to simpler designs.
We hope you have enjoyed the last six weeks, and this brief excursion through Victorian cloth bindings. With so much to offer, there is surely something for everyone to appreciate.