|BOOKBINDING: ITS PROCESSES AND IDEAL.|
BOOKBINDING is in itself a comparatively simple matter and is easily described: but it is associated with great and interesting conditions of society, and at its highest rises into disinterested admiration by such means of expression as are within its reach of what is most beautiful and wonderful in human achievement, the written and printed speech of man. Binding, moreover, like every other handicraft, is on its ideal side a discipline and a type of life. I propose, therefore, to explain indeed how a book is bound, and how, when bound, it may be tooled. But I propose also throughout to set the craft into imaginative sympathy with the thought it would perpetuate; to touch upon its origin, its history, and its patrons; to characterize the styles of the great periods of tooled decoration; to insist upon the need of some new departure in the invention and development of pattern; and finally, leaving the special objects of the binder's craft, to find in the intuition of the harmony of the universe an outline of the ideal of the craftsman and of the artist.
Speaking generally, binding has its origin in the desire to perpetuate thought. Before the discovery or invention of pliable portable material suitable for writing upon, “binding” was sought for and found in imperishable natural objects, stones, tablets, columns, ready to hand, upon which the thought was permanently incised. In this case the binding may be said to have preceded the writing. It was only when writing was made upon separate pieces or sheets of a pliable and perishable material that binding proper was invented to hold the pieces or sheets together and to give strength to them, and protection and beauty.
But here again a distinction must be made. The pliable written sheet may be either rolled or folded, each giving rise to a form of binding peculiar to itself. The rolled sheet is bound by fastening each sheet to the other sideways, and rolling the whole laterally from end to end, the last sheet serving as a cover to all the rest. The folded sheet, on the other hand, is bound by simply sewing or otherwise fastening the parts of the sheet to one another at the back crease or fold. And a number of folded sheets or of sections, as they are called, are bound by fastening each of them at the back to some common support, so that when all are sewn or otherwise fastened at the back, they may yet be free to open and shut at the front, or fore-edge.
The invention of the folded sheet thus gave rise to the inven-
- Address delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, February 2, 1894.