Posted: 2012-03-04 22:04
In the early part of the nineteenth century the majority books were sold in the following presentations:
- In quires (a batch of totalling 25 in number) of flat sheets.
- Wrappered (i.e. within a loose fitting paper cover).
- Between boards
- Bound with ' laced-on ' boards attached, covered in either a Full, Half or Quarter leather format.
Between 1820 and 1832 three events took place which revolutionised the bookbinding trade. These being the development of casing, the invention of bookcloth, and the innovation of gold, blocked decorated covers.
In London the West End binders were known for producing sumptously decorated books to suit the taste of their rich clientele; who frequently purchased books as articles of furniture. The books for schools and libraries were in the main bound in the City, being located near to the centre of the book publishing trade. Inevitably the closeness of this proximity was to be influential,and new methods of production were soon to be adopted. To meet the need for economical binding the cheaper work was produced without the commonplace practice of ' lacing-on 'the covering boards to the text block. A cover was now be prepared ' off ' the book. The Binder would then keep the cover in stock until it was required again for what would hopefully be a future repeat order . To some in the trade this ' quick ' and convenient method was frowned upon as being 'shoddy ', and seen in opposition to the sound, quality craftsmanship prevalent at the time.
Cloth was introduced as a covering material for books around 1820. Archibald Leighton's Diamond Classics are representative of books of this period; they were covered with an unfilled calico. The nature of this covering was rough and crude compared to the fine leather in use at the time. It was soon rejected as a substitute - and it was only after bookcloth adopted an appearance similar to that of leather that it became widely used. This enabled cloth to be further processed by the arming press, or as we know it today the embossing machine. This machine could impart a grain on the cloth surface. The first grains produced were so good it was difficult to discriminate between actual skin and the imitation !.The embossing of filled, calendered (polished) cloth was a technique which was to continue for the next seventy years.
In the late 1800's Winterbottom produced a sample book which presented more than fifty distinct patterns; some being more popular than others. Typical pattern names can be attributed to the following approximate dates of production:
1822 -3 Watered Silk
1833 Diaper (Diamond)
1832-5 Tinted,Glazed and Whorl
1836 Fine Ribbed
1856-65 Wavy, Bead, Buddle and Herringbone
Research indicates it was as early as 1857 when James Burns started to bind books covered in a cloth with a non-embossed finish. These finishes were termed as ' plain '. Burn's approach was unique at a time when design patterns were the standard. His contemporaries were not
by and large accepting of his alternative methods. Relatively few books were bound before 1900 with an unembossed or smooth finish. Sample books at this time showed two transistional patterns the ' T ' and ' Silk '. Subtle in appearance compared with other finishes they became popular as they were simple enough not to detrimentally impact upon the increasing practice of stamping covers with coloured inks. Many beautiful examples exist of covers produced by this technique in the 1890's. The next logical development was ink stamping onto plain finishes; and this was the direction in the following years.
A plain finish, characteristically smooth, easily lends itself as printing surface. With the advent of the four-colour process in the 1930's, the plain finish soon become the standard medium of expression in book cloth. White cloth was another innovation to facilitate the four-colour offset method for textbooks and illustrated covers. Fine grain cloths were used in quantity up to the begining of the Great War.
In the 1920's for works of non-fiction, straight, cross and sand grain were popular; with linen grain being the choice for fictional titles by publishing companies. Goodall's Canvas Finish started production in 1926.
During the 1930's manufacturers offered an unfinished, starch-filled bookcloth. These products were filled from the reverse side thus leaving the surface textured to the touch. The tactile quality is considered to be a delight. However, their popularity was limited because the penchant for a smooth finish was still in fashion. Regretably, only a few still exist from this period today. Modern textured finish bookcloths are termed as ' natural finish '. Sundour produced a light fast and washable cloth in 1932, commonly known as ' Sundours LF '.
Post 1945 we see more advancements with trade names such as Linson,(a paper based material), PVC coated papers and fabrics which are dimensionally stable making them more than suitable for pre-printing.
'' OLD AND NEW LONDON: A Narrative of its History, its People, and its Places '', by Walter Thornbury.Published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin. c.1880. Here is an example of a morocco grain cloth case binding finished with gilt, black ink and blind,(i.e. no colour), panel stamped illustration.