Kelliegram Bindings

by

John Dooley

Kelliegram bindings were one of many innovations of the English commercial binding firm of Kelly & Sons. The Kelly family had one of the longest connections in the history of the binding trade in London, having been founded in 1770 by John Kellie, as the name was then spelled. The binding firm was carried on by successive members of the family into the 1930s. William Henry Kelly significantly developed the company in the first half of the nineteenth century, followed by William Henry, Jr., Henry, and Hubert Kelly, who took control in 1892, taking the firm into the twentieth century.

In the 1880s, Kelly & Sons began to use cloth with the reverse side showing for the sides of half-leather bindings. The reverse cloth had a more interesting and less artificial appearance, with an additional advantage of not being affected by water. The development that came to be known as Kelliegram was one of the bindery's most notable, and the popularity continues today as demonstrated by the prices Kelliegram bindings command at auction and in the rare book trade.

Bryn Mawr's delightful examples of Kelliegram bindings include a full blue-green morocco leather binding, with gilt- and blind-tooled decoration and colored leather inlays, which form the figures of Lady Teazle from The School for Scandal (front cover, at left) and, on the back cover, Sir Anthony Absolute from The Rivals. The edition of Sheridan's plays was published in London by Macmillan and Co. in 1896 with illustrations by Edmund J. Sullivan, whose designs inspired the binder. The binding was a gift to Bryn Mawr from Hannah Green Hardwick, in memory of Gordon A. Hardwick.

The second example is actually a full blue morocco inlaid box made for Charles Dibdin's Songs, Naval and National with illustrations by George Cruikshank, published in London by John Murray in 1841. Again, the handsomely inlaid leather box by Kelliegram (pictured at right) uses the illustrator's designs as inspiration. The example is from the library of Frances Storer Ryan, Bryn Mawr Class of 1910.

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