Understanding and caring for bookbindings

All bookbindings, however unspectacular they may look, are potentially of interest to historians of the book and cultural historians. Vast quantities of evidence about the ways in which books were sold and circulated in the past has been lost or compromised through the entirely well-intentioned repair work of previous generations, and some of the cheapest and simplest kinds of early bookbindings are now the hardest to find. Bookbindings are worth preserving not only for their aesthetic qualities but for their value as an intrinsic part of our documentary cultural heritage.

Decisions on the care and repair of bindings can be complex and involve many considerations – use, function, rarity and structural issues. This guide from the British Library Preservation Advisory Centre outlines some of these and suggests sources for further research.

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Date created: 2010

Author: David Pearson, John Mumford, Alison Walker

Publisher: British Library Preservation Advisory Centre