Hardcover. A large, fully cataloged collection of American bookbindings, together with a few representative English bindings: a total of 413 volumes, including some multiple volume sets. The collection was created to represent the craft of hand bookbinding and its evolution from bindings made completely or largely by hand to their gradual manufacture partly or largely by machine.
The bulk of the collection consists of 367 bookbindings dating from 1791 through 1859, with 46 additional examples dating from 1860 through 1900. There are about 230 volumes dating from 1791 to 1860 bound in contemporary morocco or other leather over boards with distinctive hand tooling and stamping in gold and/or in blind. Also included are about 70 embossed leather bindings dating from 1823-83; a selection of 22 volumes in publishers’ printed paper-covered boards (1808-51); and 46 volumes in publishers’ cloth (1833-70). A final section of 35 English books is included to illustrate parallel developments in binding methods and styles.
The collection contains many signed bindings and several rare and notable books, including an unsigned 1801 volume of *Sacred Poetry* that was likely bound by Boston bookbinder Henry Bilson Legge from the library of Oliver Prescott, a prominent Revolutionary war soldier and physician from Massachusetts; and a beautifully designed 1833 autograph album by New York binder John Riker that has a long manuscript entry by William Huntington Russell, co-founder of the secret society Skull and Bones.
Represented among the signed bindings are both independent bookbinders and bookbinding firms, including Charles Wells, Robert Copeland, and Benjamin Bradley of Boston, and Benjamin Gaskill and Edward Gaskill of Philadelphia. Also represented are bindings signed by designers and die engravers, such as John Feely of New York and Alexander Morin of Philadelphia. Included among the unsigned bindings are various new or pirated editions of the most popular “best-selling” titles of the day, published throughout the 1820s in handsome morocco bindings at Exeter, New Hampshire by the bookbinder Benjamin Williams in partnership with his brother; and also at Hartford, Connecticut, by bookbinder Silas Andrus in various partnerships from about 1820 through the early 1850s.
The collection features a wide range of popular literary and religious works, bibles and psalters, autograph albums and annual gift books, specially bound in fine leather with distinctive gilt decoration hand tooled and stamped, and mechanically stamped or embossed from engraved dies or plaques. Among the books in original publishers’ bindings are representative examples cased by hand and mechanically from throughout the 19th century: beginning with books in plain undecorated boards with or without printed spine labels, and including books with printed or decorated paper-covered boards; and books in both smooth and ribbon-embossed cloth. Also included are examples of elaborately decorated trade bindings.
An historically important collection featuring many handsome representative examples of American bookbindings. Each volume has been carefully catalogued, described, and illustrated with all signings, tickets, and other notable features fully documented.
A detailed catalogue is available with photographs of all 309 catalogued titles, a total number of 413 volumes, organized into six general sections: I. Hand Tooled and/or Stamped; II. Embossed Leather Bindings; III. Original Boards; IV. Publisher’s Boards; V. Publisher’s Cloth; VI. Representative English Bindings. (Note: sections I-V are general categories with some examples that could fall into one or another section, in particular among sections I, II, and III).