Book Porn: Princeton University Library’s Bookbinding Collection

9 Jul

Princeton University’s Firestone Library is pretty much the greatest library on the planet, at least according to the evidence I’ve gathered. They held an exhibition back in 2002 called ‘Hand Bookbindings: Plain and Simple to Grand and Glorious’ in the Library’s main gallery, and every single book included is the most beautiful book that you have ever seen.

These marbled endpapers are from John Disney’s ‘An essay upon the execution of the laws against immorality and prophaneness’, published in London in 1708. I would like to read this book.

But wait, it gets better:

Marbling the edging of books was also a thing, apparently, as historically books were not always shelved with their spines facing outwards. This edge belongs to ‘The works of Laurence Sterne’, published in 1803.

Sometimes finishing tools were even used on the edges to create textured impressions, like on the 1923 book above. I AM IMPRESSED BY TEXTURED IMPRESSIONS!

This collected works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti was gilt, gauffered, and painted. I’m unsure if Rossetti painted it himself, especially as I see no evil temptresses or fallen women. Or wombats — did you know that Rossetti had two pet wombats?! And he used to get his friends to meet him at ‘Wombat’s Lair’ at London Zoo and just hang out there for a few hours? He sounds almost as cool as his sister Christina.

This is a third edition of ‘Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám’. According to Princeton University Library, this is a jewelled binding by Sangorski and Sutcliffe:

George Sutcliffe, who studied bookbinding under Douglas Cockerell, established a bindery with with Francis Sangorski in 1901. During the first two decades of the twentieth century the pair produced a number of jeweled bindings, most of them on copies of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The most sumptuous of these jeweled bindings, now referred to as ‘the Great Omar,’ never reached the American collector who commissioned it, having been entrusted to the maiden voyage of the Titanic.

(It’s totally peacocking.)

Did you know that bookbinders often had to use waste material from broken and discarded books to make new ones? A lot of medieval manuscripts only survived until today because they were used as scrap to bind other books. Here we see ‘The field of the cloth of gold’ with some music manuscript pages used economically in the binding process.

Who cares about silk underwear when you can look at silk endbands?!! This one belong to ‘Titi Lucretii Cari De rerum natura libri sex’ from 1772. Even the name of the book is sexy.

The binding on this British 17th century book is embroidered. I really, really wish Amazon did this as a final option at checkout.

Now that the exhibition is over, ‘Hand Bookbindings: Plain and Simple to Grand and Glorious’ is available online. The books are handily sorted into 26 categories like ‘Gold Tooling’ and ‘Early European Sewing’, and you can zoom in to take a closer look at the detailing. Seriously, go and look on that website right now, and let me know what you think in the comments here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: