New Castle, Delaware and Pinner, Middlesex, England: Oak Knoll Press & Private Libraries Association, 1998, small 8vo., cloth, dust jacket. 253 pages.
First edition. This book is an exploration of what the physical appearance of 19th- and 20th-century books can teach us, not only about the history of publishing but also about economic and social history and the career of authorship. It examines changes in binding styles from boards through cloth to paperbacks, noting trends in design, and studying the inception and subsequent virtual extinction of pictorial cloth bindings. It follows the evolution of the dust-jacket from simple protective wrapping to elaborate artifact. Changes in publishing practice come under review, as do the effects of two world wars on book production. Comparisons are drawn between English and American treatment of specific titles.
The intention of this book is to give insight into bibliographical matters, which will not only be of help in textual, critical, and biographical study, but above all, it will give them added pleasure as they take a book from the shelf and open it – even before they begin to read. In short, this work is about what books offer ‘apart from the text’.
The author goes back to earlier works and as far back as the cradle of printing. He shows how economic factors influenced practice, and especially how 19th-century industrial changes and the advent of steam-power affected the natural order of composing, printing and binding of books. In actual practice, mechanization first came to presswork, binding, and then lastly to composing type. However, one will want to recognize that despite these changes, hand-printing was the most efficient technique for producing considerable quantities of books, so efficient that little of truly revolutionary change occurred between 1455 and 1955, when publishing saw the advent of filmsetting and other related wonders. Illustrated.