Bookbinding: A Complete History

There is a striking parallel between the way books have developed over the past 2,000 years and the way in which furniture, decorative art and textiles have evolved over time.

“Books are companion items to art and furniture when viewed as part of the larger history of material culture,” said Monika Schiavo, Director of Waverly Rare Books in Falls Church, Virginia.

The codex book form – or a book containing multiple, stitched-together pages with handwritten content – dates back 2,000 years. However, it was not until European culture emerged from the Dark Ages and Gutenberg invented his printing press, in 1440, that bookbinding came into being.

Within a few decades of its invention, the printing press had spread to more than 200 cities in a dozen countries. By 1500, printing presses in Western Europe had already produced more than 20 million volumes.

In Renaissance Europe, with its flourishing art movement, the arrival of mechanical, movable-type printing had a profound effect on society. It introduced the era of mass communications to a blossoming culture that held aesthetics in high regard. Different styles of bookbinding began to emerge, reflecting regional preferences and implementing locally available materials.

The timeline for bookbinding looks like this:

16th Century: Birth of the Modern Book

Books became smaller and were easier to bind. Covers made of wood were replaced by pasteboards composed of layers of glued-together paper. Gold tooling became more prevalent, and titles were slowly making their way onto the spines of books.

17th Century: Refinement in Style

The structure of 17th-century books is very similar to that of the previous century, but the decoration and styling was more refined. Decorated endpapers became more common, endbands become more colorful, and the use of gold tooling increased.

18th Century: Elaboration and Simplicity

Overall, the binder became fancier, while the structure became simpler. With the availability of better technology, shortcuts could be taken during the binding process that saved money and increased production. Half and quarter bindings (combining leather with decorated paper sides) began to be used to save on the cost of leather.

Early 19th Century: The Era of Industrialization + Publishers in Control

The early 19th century was an era of transformation for bookbinding. With the increase in the demand for books, binders turned to mechanization to meet the challenge. Publishers also began to take control of the whole book-making process, from editing to printing to binding. Thus, books began to be sold with the covers already bound onto them. From a historical perspective, this makes it easier to date bindings from that period.

Late 19th Century: Publishers’ Cloth Bindings

As publishers took control over the entire book-making process, they began to view the cover as being integral to the whole. Cover designs could reflect the content, set the tone for the reader or attract the consumer. Cloth bindings were not readily accepted at first, but by the end of the 19th century, they were the norm.

19th and 20th Century: Fine Bindings – A Return to Craft Bindings or the Backlash Against the Machine

Not everyone was happy with the Industrial Revolution, including bookbinders, who regarded books as art rather than utilitarian objects. Although many bookbinders over the centuries practiced excellent craftsmanship, they thought of themselves as more than just craftsmen. Art books, private-press books, e.g., books from the Kelmscott Press, founded by William Morris, were a direct reaction to the industrialization of bookbinding. Morris looked back to an earlier age when crafts were done by hand.

Elbert Hubbard’s Roycrofters Press could be described as a more mass-market, American version of the Kelmscott Press, associated with the Arts and Crafts movement.

20th Century and Beyond: Bindings for the Masses

After the Industrial Revolution, books were being produced by the thousands. The 20th century brought refinements – both good and bad – to the machine-made book. Machine sewing became stronger, but adhesive binding slowly took over.

Machine-made paper has definitely improved over the last 50 years, but there are many brittle books from the late-19th and early 20th centuries that are slowly disintegrating, hence the need for vigilance in conservation and storage.

Our thanks for Michigan State University Libraries for providing some of the historical information contained in this article. 

Monika_Schiavo_ImageMonika Schiavo, Director of Waverly Rare Books, a division of Quinn’s Auction Galleries, received her Bachelor of Arts degree from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md., a Certificate in Appraisal Studies from New York University, and a Master of Arts degree from the Smithsonian’s History of Decorative Arts program. Schiavo provides free onsite evaluations and auction estimates for both buyers and consignors.

Top 5 Instagram Accounts All About Rare Books

You know that feeling when you’re just taking a quick peek at your Discover Tab on Instagram, and then suddenly 30 minutes have gone by as you’ve been sucked in to the amazing pictures? Yeah, that happens to us all the time. And this week, it happened when we went down a #RareBook rabbit-hole like Alice in Wonderland. Below you’ll find 5 Instagram accounts that feature beautiful book images and treat us to interesting and unique stories on a regular basis. We hope you enjoy the journey.


Photo: worldantiquarian on Instagram

Photo: worldantiquarian on Instagram

Worldantiquarian is a self-described lover of children’s books and takes followers on a journey as she finds beautiful bookstores, colorful children’s books and many unique editions of Alice in Wonderland.


Photo: i_bibliotaph on Instagram

Photo: i_bibliotaph on Instagram

Lots of #shelfies and dark-lit eerie snaps of some beautifully bound rare books comprise @i_bibliotaph’s account.


Photo: exlibris.lioness on Instagram

Photo: exlibris.lioness on Instagram

Through this Instagram account we get to visit book stores and libraries across the world, and of course, get up close and personal with some delicious rare books.

Stikeman & Co Bookbindings

Photo: jeffstikeman on Instagram

Photo: jeffstikeman on Instagram

Jeff Stikeman collects rare books and bindings, but our favorite ‘grams from him are those showing the craft of bookbinding. Stikeman & Co operated in midtown Manhattan for decades and the stories are artfully demonstrated in his pictures.

The Library Company

Photo: librarycompany on Instagram

Photo: librarycompany on Instagram

The Library Company of Philadelphia is a research library that focuses on American society and culture from the 17th-19th centuries. With incredibly fascinating prints and writings, the books that are on display in their feed are not to be missed.

Got more Instagram favorites? Share them with us on Instagram @byjasper52.

The Ultimate Guide to Antique Persian Rugs

Entering the world of antique Persian rugs for the first time can be like setting foot in a faraway land, and while the language of rugs is foreign, the look and feel of these fine, handmade floor coverings are irresistible. Below we share all the crucial information you need to get started with antique Persian rugs.

A virtual garden of richly articulated palmettes and vines spreads in repeated allover symmetry across the pale apricot ground of this lavish antique Kerman, Lavar. Size: 11 feet 9 inches by 15 feet 4 inches Sold for $14,950. Image courtesy of and Nazmiyal Auctions

A virtual garden of richly articulated palmettes and vines spreads in repeated allover symmetry across the pale apricot ground of this lavish antique Kerman, Lavar. Size: 11 feet 9 inches by 15 feet 4 inches Sold for $14,950. Image courtesy of and Nazmiyal Auctions

Why Decorate with Persian Rugs

An added benefit of decorating your home with Persian rugs is their durability. Handmade Persian rugs are made to stand up to years – if not decades – of use.

In terms of decorative appeal, Persian rugs have a timeless, classical elegance that’s right at home in Western interiors.

While collectors tend to delve into ancient traditions, beliefs, geometric figures and symbolic motifs woven into these rugs, most Western buyers want to know what types and styles should go where in the home.


This late 19th century Mohtashem rug features a formal inset medallion woven in an elegant combination of colors. It measures 8 feet 6 inches by 11 feet 9 inches and sold for $44,000. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Nazmiyal Auctions

This late 19th century Mohtashem rug features a formal inset medallion woven in an elegant combination of colors. It measures 8 feet 6 inches by 11 feet 9 inches and sold for $44,000. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Nazmiyal Auctions

Style Factors

Deciding what style or design is right for your home depends on personal preferences and the size of the floor.  The following are factors to consider:

  • More traditional designs incorporate well into older homes with more intricate décor while modern design rugs lend themselves to contemporary spaces with simple geometry and an open aesthetic.
  • Geometric rugs with bold patterns and strong contrasts have a masculine appeal, while floral designs with softer color schemes and less contrast emanate a feminine charm.
  • Keep an eye on symmetry in a room. Allover designs make furniture arrangement easy for spaces such as living rooms and libraries. Certain rooms, such as dining rooms, provide the perfect setting for a medallion rug, which features a large motif in the center of the field.
  • Colorful rugs will make a strong statement in a room, while a more neutral or monochromatic rug will subtly complement the other colors in the room and integrate easily into existing décor.
  • Filling the floor, or most of it, is not necessarily the way to go, unless the primary concern is acoustic sound absorption. If the floors are attractive, a certain amount flooring should remain exposed around the edge of the room. One or more carpets can also be used to establish different spaces or areas within a larger room, say a living area and a dining area within a continuous space.

Rug Size Does Matter

Antique scatter size small rugs are often woven by nomadic tribes and present more village-style weaves as well as tribal geometric motifs. Not all small area rugs are tribal though – major rug producing regions like Kerman and Tabriz also produced smaller rugs with very fine weaves and more floral, curvilinear designs. Regardless of their genesis or style, the smaller sizes of these scatter rugs make them versatile for any space in the home.

There are also antique accent rugs that feature amazingly detailed medallions and botanical patterns. Scatter rugs are eclectic, practical, versatile and ideal for collectors who’d like to acquire a variety of unique pieces.

Room-size rugs come in sizes from 9 feet to 15 feet long and are intended for use in the main rooms of your home such as the family room, living room, dining room, and bedroom. Antique rugs in this size range vary tremendously in terms of design and come in nearly every color and style imaginable. More decorative room-size rugs are perfect for less formal areas like a family room or bedroom. For more formal areas, look to the refined Persian city weaves or Indian rugs.

Antique runner rugs are long and narrow rugs and are suitable for hallways and stairways. Many times runner rugs come from nomadic tribes as the looms these weavers used had to be small enough to carry with them. Thus, the width was fixed to the maximum width of the loom, but the length could go on indefinitely.

Extra large rugs are often referred to as “palace size rugs” or “oversize carpets.” These big rugs and carpets are necessary for larger homes with expansive living areas and dining rooms. Antique extra-large rugs were often commissioned by aristocracy and custom tailored to suit their exquisite tastes. Extra-large rugs can be some of the most decorative and refined pieces available in the market.

This Turkish Yuruk family prayer rug from the late 19th century is an example of a tribal rug. Measuring 4 feet by 7 feet, it sold for $4,800. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Nazmiyal Auctions

This Turkish Yuruk family prayer rug from the late 19th century is an example of a tribal rug. Measuring 4 feet by 7 feet, it sold for $4,800. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Nazmiyal Auctions

City Rugs v. Tribal Rugs

All antique rugs are woven in basically the same technique, one that has been established for a long time. Despite this relative homogeneity, however, there are certain types of rugs that aesthetically distinct from one another.

One of the most important such divisions is that which exists between city rugs and village or tribal rugs. This divide is important to the rug world because the differences between these two distinct types of rugs may involve substantial differences in style.

Generally, city rugs tend to be sophisticated, refined, and elegant – qualities that work well in formal settings. Meanwhile, the bold, geometric designs and effects of village and tribal rugs work better in less formal circumstances. Personal taste, however, overrides all such considerations.

Find and bid on unique Persian rugs in Jasper52 rug auctions.


Adapted from original article featured on Auction Central News. Information from the Nazmiyal Collection. 


Viking Jewelry: Everything You Need to Know

Vikings and ancient Scandinavian culture and lore have attracted increased interest in recent years, largely in part to film and television programming (have you heard of Game of Thrones?). This awareness has led to a fascination with the skillful metalwork of Vikings, including their weaponry and jewelry. Discoveries of the divergent representation of masterful Viking metalwork continue to occur in the UK and other western European countries, according to Bob Dodge, owner/director/founder, Artemis Gallery Ancient Art, which specializes in antiquities and ancient art.

Below we outline the key facts and info behind Viking jewelry, so you can start your collection:

Gold Ring

Viking 22K gold ring, Northern Europe, found in Britain, ninth to 12th century. Composed of two gold wires twisted together and hammered and welded at the terminals, displaying traditional Viking techniques. Artemis Gallery image

Viking 22K gold ring, Northern Europe, found in Britain, ninth to 12th century. Artemis Gallery image

While silver appears to have been the metal of choice, a small number of Viking gold pieces and bronze objects have come to auction, Dodge said. This gold Viking ring from the ninth to the 12th century was found in Britain.

While we may not know the exact meaning behind the designs, we do find indicators or origins. Shield forms probably paid homage to the importance of this item of warfare to the expansionist dreams of the Vikings, said Dodge.

Sorcerer’s Amulet

Viking sorcerer/seer amulet, A.D. 850-1100, shaped as a duck’s foot and pierced. Jasper52

Viking sorcerer/seer amulet, A.D. 850-1100, shaped as a duck’s foot and pierced. Jasper52

Examples of Viking mythology and their religion can also be seen in ancient jewelry. For example, this pierced amulet, shaped as a duck’s foot is similar to a necklace found at the grave of a woman of wealth and societal status, along with a wand and other items. It was believed, based on the discovery of the items in the grave, that the woman was a sorcerer or seer.

Silver Ring

Viking silver ring, ninth to 11th century, found in U.K. Artemis Gallery image

Viking silver ring, ninth to 11th century, found in U.K. Artemis Gallery image

Efficient design and ease of use are at the core of ancient Viking jewelry. This heavy overlapping coil of silver band has been twisted and incised with “feather” pattern along most of its length. Rings are a common type of Viking jewelry discovered today, second only to bracelets, Dodge explained.

Garment Brooch

Viking silver brooch, twin-paneled brooch or fibula, each side decorated with grape patterns, Western Europe, ninth to 12th century. Artemis Gallery image

Viking silver brooch, each side decorated with grape patterns, ninth to 12th century. Artemis Gallery image

Vikings used brooches to hold clothing in place and guard against the impact of swords during battle.

Hoop Earrings

Viking 22K gold hoop earrings, Northern Europe, ninth to 12th century. Artemis Gallery image

Viking 22K gold hoop earrings, Northern Europe, ninth to 12th century. Artemis Gallery image

Long before advancements in fabrication, Vikings created weapons, armor and tools that stood the test of time and completed the tasks at hand. Those skills are also evident in more elaborate jewelry designs like that of these gold hoop earrings. Other shapes seen in Viking jewelry include hearts, crescents and axes.

Interested in starting your own Viking jewelry collection? Discover Viking Jewelry on Jasper52.


Adapted from original article featured on Auction Central News by C.A. LEO

Best Rare Bookshops in the US

Like paper-and-ink books in general, bookshops can seem like an endangered species in the digital age. Yet an undercurrent of profound commitment to this 560 year-old technology, the printed book, sustains book lovers in their belief that a better vessel for preserving and conveying testimony to what it means to be alive has yet to be devised, e-readers be damned. Booksellers, equally partisans of the printed book, continue to recognize this, and as long as they do, we can hope for the longevity of the bookshop as a place of discovery and community. Below are the top hits when it comes to rare book shops in the United States:

Image courtesy of Bauman Rare Books

Image courtesy of Bauman Rare Books

Bauman Rare Books

If you want an immersive experience in the history of the book as a cultural object, I can think of no better place than Bauman Rare Books. With shops on Madison Avenue in New York City and in the Palazzo Hotel in Las Vegas, the Baumans offer what they call “landmark books” in all fields, from the 15th century to today. This amounts to a one-stop tour of some of the boldest ideas and most cherished writers the Western tradition has produced, from Shakespeare and Adam Smith to Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft, from Charles Darwin and Thomas Jefferson to Madame Curie and Martin Luther King, Jr. No other rare bookshop in the country has brought together a selection in as wide a range of subjects. Visitors shouldn’t be put off by the museum-like atmosphere, though. The booksellers here are extremely friendly and knowledgeable. They’re eager to share stories about the publication history of each book on display, and to educate newcomers in the terminology and tradecraft of rare and antiquarian books. You can even handle many of the great rarities on offer.

Honey & Wax Booksellers

So much of book collecting and bookselling is about personal taste, and no bookseller I know has better taste than Honey & Wax Booksellers. Their motto – “Use books as bees use flowers” – gestures perfectly at both the aesthetic and utilitarian functions that books have historically served. Honey & Wax offers a distinctive selection in literature, the arts and children’s books, among other areas. What really characterizes each of their books, though, is a strong visual or tactile component that’s emblematic of that book’s place in time and culture, something Honey & Wax describes as having “no downloadable equivalent,” whether it be hand-colored illustrations, an exquisitely crafted binding, or a unique ownership history. Honey & Wax’s books are primarily available online and through its beautiful catalogues, but their Brooklyn office is open by appointment only.

Brian Cassidy

Another dealer I greatly admire is Brian Cassidy, Bookseller. Cassidy is among a handful of emerging rare booksellers looking beyond traditional book collecting for the type of ephemeral material that shapes and defines cultural trends and movements before we’ve even realized it. Outsider literary magazines, punk rock posters and handbills, pulp paperbacks, handmade artists books, personal scrapbooks and photo albums documenting little-known subcultures – these are the kinds of “cultural detritus” Cassidy discovers and meticulously catalogues, providing a context for them in the larger world. Based in the Washington, D.C. area, Cassidy sells primarily online and through catalogues, as well as regularly at book fairs around the country.

The pleasures of ordinary used bookshops shouldn’t be overlooked or understated. Books produced at different moments in recent history jostle together on their shelves, reflecting both the changes and the constants of our communal tastes and values. Moreover, used bookshops are important incubators for collectors and dealers of rare books, as they demonstrate the richness and variety that are possible, and train the eye and fingertips in detection.

Unnameable Books

More than any other player, alas, it’s the used bookseller that’s most threatened in the digital age. One of my favorites still in operation is Unnameable Books in Brooklyn, NY. They have first-rate selections in fiction and poetry, philosophy and critical theory, art, film, music, history and politics, as well as books in foreign languages, and a small selection of rare books in back. They’re affordable, and they buy books and take them on trade. Basically they’re everything a good used bookshop – the kind you could once find several of in every neighborhood in New York City – should be.

Any of your favorites left off this list? Tweet @ByJasper52 and share your suggestions.

Erik Duron copyErik DuRon has nearly 20 years of experience buying and selling rare books in all fields, first at Bauman Rare Books in New York City, and then independently. He has built collections for diverse clients, and collaborates with and consults for collectors, booksellers and auction houses. He lives in Brooklyn and can be reached at