By the 1840s, publishers routinely used cloth for the covers of those works that they decided to sell in an already bound state.
Many factors had led to this development, which took place against a growing market for reading matter, and a tendency towards the production of larger edition sizes.
The increasing mechanisation of the binding processes themselves, the introduction of efficient ways of making binding cases, and the adaptation of machinery that would colour and pattern the cloth itself, all contributed to the successful introduction of the material.
Binding cloth, which was very durable and could be produced (to order) in large quantities, could also be subsequently blocked, ether in colour or in blind, with lettering or designs, to striking visual (and, presumably, commercially attractive) effect.
Many of our special collections include books from the nineteenth century. Some collections, e.g. Victorian Poetry, Victorian Literature, concentrate on this period. The titles on display, all published in Britain, have come from these extensive holdings.
For more information, see Edmund M. King, Victorian Decorated Trade bindings, 1830-1880: a Descriptive Bibliography. London: British Library, 2003.
The Victoria Regia: a Volume of Original Contributions in Poetry and Verse. Ed. by Adelaide Proctor.
London: Printed & published by Emily Faithfull & Co., Victoria Press, for the Employment of Women, 1861.
Blue horizontal-grain cloth. The design is essentially built up by a series of ornate gold-blocked borders, culminating in the central rectangle, circle and crown. The spine is signed, ‘JL’. John Leighton (1822-1912) was one of the most prolific and imaginative designers of publishers’ bindings.
Robert Willmott, English Sacred Poetry of the Sixteenth...Nineteenth Centuries.
London: Routledge, Warne & Routledge, 1862.
Red horizontal-grain cloth. Blocked in gold and in blind. Within the oval placed within the centre, blue paper has been onlaid, carrying (blocked in gold) the image of a lyre player. This image is signed (below the lyre) ‘RD’. Robert Dudley, who worked as a draughtsman for the major Victorian architect, Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt, was also a minor writer. Dudley is known for several binding designs, dating from the 1860s.
Bound by Leighton Son and Hodge.
Thomas Miller, Common Wayside Flowers. Illustrated by Birket Foster.
London: Routledge, Warne & Routledge, 1860.
The gift of Prof and Mrs A A Jack.
Brown grained cloth blocked in gold, with intricate ivy design, and with the title in the central panel in rustic lettering. The four colour-printed paper onlays in each corner are varnished. Regarded as one of the more spectacular cloth / paper bindings of the period.