Publishers' Bindings: 1840-1849
By the 1840s, cloth bindings had gained public acceptance and binders had gained technical control of the materials. Early on, binders continued to design using a stock set of frames and ornamental dies-lyres, flowers, urns-which they had purchased from engravers. On American books of the late 1830s-40s, the binder's name, and perhaps the city in which he worked, can sometimes be found inside one of the stamped frames. Binders' advertisements often mentioned the quantity and variety of dies they possessed along with the styles of binding they could produce.
Stylistically, the designs of the 1840s were not much different from those of the previous decade, but overall they achieved a better balance. The arabesque ornaments frequently used to create frames lent an air of refinement and central vignettes, often appearing on only the front cover, were well proportioned to the whole. The ruled border on both boards became a convention. Minor improvements and a few new cloth grains appeared, but the cloths most associated with the 1840s are the rare striped and patterned cloths, which like the ribbon-embossed before them, existed for only a few years.
By the mid-forties, illustration was widely used in books, newspapers and magazines. Particularly in America, the public was growing discontented with the use of interchangeable ornaments on their books. They wanted the images inside their books to move to the outside, and publishers and binders recognized the selling power of pictorial images. Binders began to order dies for specific books from engravers, who often adapted illustrations from the text. Book covers were brought to life with gilt scenes of domestic life, public figures, animals, and landscapes.
Lydia Sigourney. The Weeping Willow. Hartford: Henry S. Parsons, 1849.
Trees, urns, cornucopia, wreaths and hands are among the commonly used ornaments of the 1840s.
The urn and flowers in the central vignette, along with the net grain cloth, are common to the period. The binding is signed in the inner frame "K. S. Elles Binder New York". The author presented this copy to Mrs. Lydia H. Sigourney, the "Sweet Singer of Hartford". Mrs. Sigourney was a prolific and extremely influential writer of sentimental fiction as well as editor of her own annual, The Religious Souvenir.
Examples of rare patterned and striped cloths. The patterned cloth (The Haunted Barque) is also blind stamped while both of the striped cloths are stamped in blind as well as gold. The Ivy Wreath. Each of the books has all edges gilt; The Ivy Wreath also has printed patterned endpapers.
The Minstrel Pilgrim in blue fine-ribbed, striped cloth is stamped in gold with elaborately chased dies. Calaynos is an example of a patterned cloth, blind and gilt blocking all working together to splendid effect.
American gift books in morocco grain (top) and net grain (bottom) cloth blocked in gold with several elaborate dies on both boards.
The gilt scenes on the cover, embossed from heated brass dies, are all drawn from illustrations in the book: in technique they strongly resemble wood engravings of the period. The design on the front cover is repeated on the back in blind. The cloth is a morocco grain.
The vignettes on the cover and spine closely follow illustrations in the text, which were engraved by J. J. Butler. The central ornament on the front board is repeated on the back in blind, along with the decorative blind frame. The cloth is a fine rib.
The signature of a New York binder, "Leonard Ballou (?)", appears in the blind frame. The cloth is a diced grain and the decoration is the same on both boards.
This celebration of “The Swamp Fox”, General Marion, was one in a series of Nafis & Cornish biographies of Revolutionary War heroes. The spine decoration and blind stamping on the boards is carries through the series while the book cloth and gilt central figure vary. Manuals on etiquette were also common in the period.
Although not on the same book, the engravings on these two books illustrate the contrast between American and English styles. The quality of the engraving is roughly equal, but the rendering of expression and attitude of the horses and the men is quite different.
Fine ribbed cloth blocked in blind on gold. The back board has only the blind frame. Dickens' illustrated books were virtually all bestsellers in their time. This title was issued in an edition of 30,000-40,000.