In England, ornate, heavily gilt gift
books remained popular throughout much of this decade. However,
as the years passed, the overall application of gold gradually declined,
particularly on spines, which became plainer. The cost of using
gold, which required laying on by hand, became higher and higher
as wages rose and working hours shortened in the second half of
the century. "Dutch gold", an alloy of copper and zinc
hammered into thin sheets, was sometimes used in place of the real
thing and can be recognized by its oxidation to green or red.
Beginning in the 1850s, perhaps in
an effort to introduce more color or to imitate traditional leather
bindings, paper (and sometimes cloth) onlays were applied, usually
to recessed and shaped covers. Chromolithograph cut outs and occasionally
photographs were also pasted on to covers. The trend of using recessed
covers that began in the fifties continued, often resulting in heavy
books. A new wave of very tactile cloths had come on the market
in the late 1850s, adding wavy grain, bead or bubble, dot and line,
sand, and herringbone grains to those still in use.
By the second half of the decade, some
publishers had reacted to the complexity of design by adopting comparatively
stark designs on dark cloths. Increasingly, central vignettes or
ornaments were enclosed in some sort of frame. Sometimes a book's
title, or a golden facsimile of the author's signature was the central
In America, the strain of the Civil
War was evident in the rather somber covers. While plain ruled borders
remained in place, cornerpieces and arabesque frames began to disappear.
Pictorial vignettes often took on martial and patriotic themes and
pulled back toward the center of the cover. The viewer's focus was
very much drawn into the center of the front board, and by extension,
into the book itself.
Robert A. Willmott, ed. Poems
of James Montgomery. London: Routledge, Warne, & Routledge,
This design reflects the influence
of Oriental bindings. The cloth beneath the floral frame is
a morocco grain, while the two visible areas of cloth have
each been blocked in blind with a different floral design.
Both boards carry the same design.
Richard Pigot. The Life
of Man. London: Longmans, Green, Reader, & Dyer, 1866.
Not only did John Leighton design
this binding, but he also illustrated the text. The book was
bound by Edmonds & Remnant, has a cloth onlay in the central
cartouche, and uses black ink as well as gold.
Tom Hood. Griset's Grotesques.
London: George Routledge, 1867.
A printed paper onlay has been
pasted into the recess of the front board, then blocked with
gold. The back board has only the blind frame. Bound by W.
Bone & Son, this book contains one hundred designs by
Ernest Griset engraved by the Brothers Dalziel.
Mr. & Mrs. S. C. Hall.
The Book of the Thames. London: Alfred W. Bennett,
An albumen print has been pasted
on the front cover and several more are tipped in throughout
the text. The book was bound by Virtue & Son. The binding
design is certainly by John Leighton; an 1859 edition of this
title, signed by Leighton, has a different design in the central
oval but identical outer frames.
Shirley Hibberd. Clever
Dogs, Horses, Etc. London: S. W. Partridge & Co., 1868.
Featuring a chromolithograph inset, this volume was sold for
5 shillings in this binding. The publisher was awarded an Honorable
Mention for Illustrated Books at the International Exhibition
Joseph Barber. War Letters
of a Disbanded Volunteer. New York: Frederic A. Brady,
John Feely engraved the central
vignette, which he adapted from the frontispiece. The back
board is stamped in blind with the publisher's initials as
well as the decorative cornerpieces.
Ralph Waldo Emerson. The Conduct of Life. London:
Smith, Elder & Co., 1860.
America: A Dramatic Poem.
New York: Anson D. F. Randolph, 1863.
Jean Ingelow. Poor Matt; or, The
Clouded Intellect. Boston: Roberts Bros., 1866.
Frederic Ingham. Ten Times
One Is Ten. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1871.
Both the Emerson and America are covered in a very
tactile wavy grain cloth that has also been blocked in blind.
These cloths were often used as decoration in and of themselves.
Many books of the period featured this type of restrained, yet
Harriet Myrtle. The Water
Lily. New York: Hurd & Houghton, 1866.
Ralph Waldo Emerson. May - Day. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1867.
John R. Vernon. The Harvest of a Quiet Eye. London: The Religious Tract Society, 1867.
These covers reflect the mid-century fascination with natural
history and the sciences.
|Favell Lee Mortimer.
Reading Without Tears. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1865.
This "learning to read" manual was sold for 75 cents;
Harper would send it out postage-free upon receipt of the cost.
Bill, ed. Pen Pictures of the War. New York: 1864.
The title page states that this
book was sold only by subscription, as was common at the time.
The depth of the blocking reflects the tremendous pressure
required to strike through the very heavy grain. Both boards
are gilt to the same design.
Samuel Clemens. The Celebrated
Jumping Frog. New York: C. H. Webb, 1868.
Mark Twain's first book was originally
published in the spring of 1867. Lavender cloth was fairly
common in this decade, while bevelled boards would appear
more often in the 1870s. The frog appears in blind on the