An exhibition entitled "It's the Ticket: Nineteenth-Century Bookbinding in the British Isles and the United States" will open this fall in the Class of 1912 Rare Book Room. Willman Spawn, Honorary Curator of Bookbinding at the College, will curate this e xhibition of ticketed bindings.
The acquisition of a major collection of bookbindings in the British Isles 1774-1910, consisting of 218 signed bindings, has been made possible through the generosity of Joanna Semel Rose, Class of 1952. Willman Spawn will select books from the Library' s rich bookbinding collection with the United States examples drawn from the Maser Collection of American bookbindings.
The exhibition will center on two unique pattern books of binding designs of the 1830s, one from the New York firm, H. & H. Griffin, and the other from an unknown firm in Hull, England. The designs included are similar, showing little if any common national style. However, they do reflect the influence of machine technology on what had been a handcraft for many centuries.
The practice of signing English bindings became popular after about 1780, and less common after 1850. Printed labels, ink or blind stamps, and signatures tooled in gilt, usually on the inside front cover, were the most frequently used means by which cra ftsmen signed their work.
The binder's ticket is a late eighteenth-century invention. The idea of tickets may have been influenced by the practice of French binders, but one authority argues that they are more likely to be an extension of trade cards and printed advertisements o f the eighteenth century. One of the earliest binder's labels is a good example of the evolution of the binder's ticket from an advertisement. Printed in Oswestry, it is dated 1789 and advertises both the binder, H. G. Sheppard, and the company, "Mr. J. Slater, printer, bookseller, binder and stationer." The label also servers as the bookplate of William and Mary Peever, for whom the book was bound.
Some of the finest quality bindings were produced between 1810 and 1830 and are usually of straight-grained morocco, with elaborate gilt tooling. Of special interest is an 1826 cathedral style binding by Nettleton of Plymouth, bound in blue calf with a central cathedral window stamped in blind. Embossed cathedral bindings were influenced by the Gothic revival which was gathering pace in the early years of the nineteenth century. In addition, there are also half, quarter and three-quarter bound trade bi ndings in the collection.
An influential London company represented in the exhibition is Edmonds & Remnants which produced handsome embossed bindings. One of the most prominent bindings from the 1840s is by the highly original and innovative binder James Hayday of London. Bound i n scarlet crushed morocco, the ornate binding is decorated in Persian style.
The spread of good binders across England was not unrelated to the fact that half a dozen or so country-house libraries could provide a local binder with a livelihood. University towns are well represented in the exhibition, as are those binders located near large public schools such as Harrow, Eton, and Charterhouse. There are two bindings by women, Susannah Hatton of Manchester and Louisa Watkins of London. The number of binders represented in the British Isles collection is 185, of which 130 are from outside London.
The exhibition includes work by many different binders, demonstrating the development of English and American craft bookbinding from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.
Willman Spawn, historian of bookbinding, came to the Bryn Mawr College Library in 1985 and co-curated the highly successful exhibition "Bookbinding in America, 1680-1910" and the award-wining book which accompanied the show.
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