February 29, 2008

The Motherlode of Vintage Bookbinding History

Posted in bookbinding, books, Design, Inspiration at 3:35 pm by India

swirly bindings

Earlier this week, Miss Sheila Ryan, archivist extraordinaire, drew my attention to the 2008 winner of the award for Best Online Archival Exhibition, as reported by Kate Theimer at ArchivesNext.com: “Publishers’ Bindings Online, 1815–1930: The Art of Books,” created by the University of Alabama, University Libraries, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries.

It has taken me so long to blog the news because this collection is sick—sick, I tell you: more than five thousand books, in various states of decay. Some are fabulous; some are homely; it would take weeks to look at them all. Every time I thought I had a good selection with which to illustrate this post, I’d find twenty more that I love.

The only problem with this archive? You can’t bookmark specific pages within the collection, as you have to have a valid session ID. And if you let your browser sit idle for too long, your session times out. Maddening! If anyone can find a way around this, please let me know. I’ve been dumping covers into Flickr so I can find them again.

More samples after the jump . . .

illustration-y bindings

typographic bindings

net-patterned bindings

busy bindings

Go crazy.


  1. Sheila Ryan said,

    I’ve been going crazy all week with this — just looking and looking and looking and thinking about the job I’m trying to turn around on a tight self-imposed deadline and looking and looking and thinking to myself, “I wonder whether India Amos knows about this?” and looking . . . and looking . . .

  2. Sheila Ryan said,

    P.S. Kate Theimer (ArchivesNext), who not only reported the results of but conceived and organized the Best Archives on the Web Awards, has a new project in the works, a blog she’s asked some of her fellow archivists to review as she plays with it. Kate says, “The audience would be people who want to keep track of news items related to archives, but not at the level of detail (or format) that Peter K. does on the [professional archivists’] listserv, and also with some items from other professions and blogs thrown in as well.” That business about “items from other professions and blogs” — that has potential, yes? I’ll keep you posted.

  3. Elisabeth said,

    These are just amazing! I’m almost gratefull we never have money to do anything fancy to the book binds at work. That way at least I don’t have to feel any pressure to make thing as wonderful as some of these are.

    On the other hand. A couple of times a year wouldn’t hurt …

  4. Maia said,

    What fun! Thank you! I love the spines.

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