The Evolution of Book Binding

Book binding is an art that will forever be remembered throughout history, even in a society where E-book sales are soaring and printed texts are declining. For example, one text that is still greatly remembered is the St. Cuthbert Gospel from the seventh century. It is a beautiful text that is considered to be the earliest surviving Western binding and the forefather of current day books. It sold for a $14.3 million in 2012.

Earliest surviving Western binding

Earliest surviving Western binding

Book binding still occurs today, but rarely produces texts as collectible as those from early history. However, today’s society has produced some very intriguing and unusual bindings with materials like fur, aluminum, bark, and rubber. The video below shows some of these strange bindings.

My book of interest, “To Have and to Hold” by Mary Johnston, has a cloth binding. Cloth bindings were first used in 1810 in Britain and soon became popular to keep the sheets of paper clean while on the shelf. Binding is a complicated process and more detailed information about that can be found here. When book bindings become worn or damaged, restoration is possible; however, it’s hard to find a skilled book restorer in all areas. Restoration can also be somewhat expensive, depending on what needs repaired and what extras the owner requests.

Restoration prices

Restoration prices

The videos below give more information on book binding including tools used, binding, and restoration.

More resources:

History of Bookbinding

Short History of Bookbinding

Amz. Sherlock-iPhone app that searches book covers by ISBN numbers

The Medieval Girdle Book Project-Contains information about girdle books from the 13th-16th centuries

Girdle book

Girdle book


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