Nineteenth-century British and Irish publishers bindings

Since 1994 I have worked to create a corpus of nineteenth-century publishers’ bindings. The aim has been to identify and describe designs blocked or printed onto covers of publishers/ edition bindings for the Victorian period. The copies identified are normally those held in the British Library. There was a conservation objective involved in carrying out this work, as many of the books in the British Library collections were in a poor state of repair. My 2003 descriptive bibliography marked one stage of this process (Edmund M. B. King, Victorian decorated trade bindings, 1830-1880: a descriptive bibliography. London: British Library; New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2003). Another objective of the work was to enable other libraries to properly identify designs on copies, with descriptive notes of the designs being added to the appropriate catalogue.

The purpose of the past and present work is to bring into the online domain this field of book history and design, which has been largely overlooked. The use of tickets (or stamps) by binders to identify their work is also recorded. The scope of the work is limited mostly to publishers’ bindings, with occasional citations for custom bindings. It is intended that this will make scans and descriptions of designs available to a far wider audience online than was previously possible.

The development of the British Library Database of Bookbindings made it possible to place online the entries in my 2003 bibliography in order to reach a wider audience. From 2012 work began to transfer into the BL database the entries in the 2003 bibliography. Some 730 entries were transferred, together with scans of the bindings.
Searches may be started at: https://www.bl.uk/catalogues/bookbindings/

Also listed for each entry in the BL Database of Bookbindings are: authors, titles, illustrators, engravers, editors, photographers, binder’s name, binders’ tickets/ stamps, cloth dye, cloth grain, publisher, printer, previous owner, prize label name.  Researchers can identify names, or other elements, relevant to their research. Additionally, some 300 bindings not in the 2003 Bibliography have been identified and added to the BL Database of Bookbindings, some of which are Arts and Crafts designs. Further entries will be added to the BL Database of Bookbindings from time to time.

Work is in progress to upload all of the cover designs in British Library collections (so far catalogued) into the following Pinterest Board:
19th Century Publishers Bindings.

Work is also in progress to add images of bookbindings for the John Collins collection of Particular Bindings (housed at the British Library):

For bindings with paper covers, found by other Pinterest users, images of the covers are added to the Pinterest Boards:

British Museum de Beaumont Collection

Robin de Beaumont gifted some 400 books and magazines to the British Museum Department of Prints and Drawings in 1992 and in 1996. A checklist of the collection can be found in Paul Goldman Victorian Illustrated Books 1850-1870 (British Museum Press, 1994), pp. 126-142. The checklist cites a register number for each item. Between 2013 and 2018, cataloguing took place for this collection of books and magazines. This work resulted in some 400 descriptive entries being made for book covers (and their designs), with the results available via the BM Explore the collection portal.

Once the BM Prints & Drawings register number is known, (e.g. 1992,0406.230) this can be entered in the BM portal to find the full descriptive entry for each book of magazine and the scans made of the binding and of selected illustrations. For this collection, at least one scan of an illustration per book was made, with more scans made of illustrations for magazines.

A summary of the cataloguing and scanning work on the de Beaumont collection is available at: http://victorianbookbindings.blogspot.com/2019/

A number of Pinterest Boards relating to the de Beaumont Collection were created to allow viewing of bindings and of illustrations:

The binders' tickets in the de Beaumont Collection have been added to the Pinterest Boards for London Binders and for UK provincial binders

Edmund M B King (Ed King)
St Albans
March 2022