The binding of a book can determine whether an individual purchases said book or leaves it on the shelf. Mirjam Foot claims that there is a transaction between “a donor and a recipient” which implies that there is only one transaction when it comes to the exchange of bookbindings (Foot 93). While for the most part, this concept of a single transaction is accurate, it does not consider the complexity of children’s literature because, in this kind of literature, there is not only the transaction between “donor” and “recipient” but there is also the transaction between a child and a parent. The concept I developed of the double transaction explains the second transaction found in children’s literature and its importance. The double transaction also strives to point out the way in which the developers of bindings for children’s literature must take into consideration the dichotomy between parents and children because, if they don’t do so, the binding will fail to fulfill its purpose – selling the book. This thesis seeks to understand if and how the double transaction became more relevant during this time period because publishers and authors had to come up with a single binding that appeals to these audiences rather than making a custom binding. Because of the technological developments of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this time period becomes the perfect case study for the study of the double transaction in bookbinding. The learning curve that publishers and authors had to get used to creating a major change in the way in which bookbinding developed.

The technique of publishers' bindings, which are, according to the University of Adelaide’s Special Collections and Archives, “book cover[s] manufactured in quantity which is intended to be identical, and which is applied to a whole or part of an issue bound for a publisher to sell,” changed the way in which books were marketed. The speed at which publishers’ bindings were being produced, changed the materials and techniques used to bind them. Publishers' bindings changed the course of bookbinding, and they show how bookbinding adapts to the demands of society.  During this time period, we also see publishers discover the “large potential market for cheap reprints” which brought forward the technique of using “fabricated cases of paper boards printed with eye-catching coloured pictures” (Gaskell 248-249). The mass production of books brought out the importance of judging books by their bindings. For a long time, books were a luxury that was out of reach for many. With changes in the economy due to the industrial revolution, more people were able to buy books, and thus publishing houses and authors had to find ways in which to mass-produce bindings to keep up with the demand. Industrialization influenced bookbinding which not only changed the way in which books were reproduced, it also changed bookbinding since, during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century, bindings were significantly simpler than the intricate designs used for earlier custom bindings.

It is particularly interesting to think about the influence that bookbinding has on an individual when it comes to children’s literature because there are two audiences that the binding must appeal to — adults and children. Scholarship on children’s literature oftentimes forgoes the importance of the book’s binding and does not truly consider the fact that there are two audiences to which the binding must appeal to. The development of publishers' bindings goes hand in hand with the dual audience because the publisher needs to be aware of its audiences to mass-produce bindings that will sell books. Since many books in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century were purchased by parents for children, it was up to the parent to make economic decisions for them, which then forced the parent to adopt the perspective of their child when making said decisions. Bindings are incredibly deliberate and something that both authors and publishers work hard to develop to appeal to potential customers. When it comes to the sale and reception of children’s books, bindings serve as the means through which customers of both audiences, children and adults, are persuaded into buying the book. The images in the bindings of children’s literature give an insight as to what is inside the book and, if the binding images attract the attention of the child, then the content will probably do so as well. Seeing a child’s reaction to a binding is a good judge of whether the child will enjoy the book or not and thus it is important for parents to see the way in which bindings influence the overall interaction between children and books.

Bridging the gap between scholarship on Victorian children’s literature and bookbinding can also help us better understand publishing and binding today. My focus on the Shaw Collection and the late-nineteenth to early-twentieth centuries emphasize the beginnings of mass-produced bookbinding, which is the type of binding we see today. Using sources from that time period gives me a better sense of what bookbinding looked like before all of the developments in technology that we have today, and it also establishes the fact that mass-produced bookbinding has been relevant for a long time and yet doesn’t get recognized as such. By going to the root of the problem, I will be able to make claims that show the constant undermining of the value of bindings. My development of the double transaction is also something that I feel will greatly benefit the future of bookbinding and children’s literature because of the way in which it will encourage scholars to take into consideration the audiences of children’s literature and the way in which their bindings must appeal to both. Throughout history, books have served as a means through which people interchange knowledge.  My development of the double transaction stems from the need of bringing children’s literature scholarship and bookbinding scholarship together so that they talk to one another, and it builds on Foot’s work in The History of Bookbinding as a Mirror of Society. My concept of the double transaction aims to unite bookbinding scholarship and children’s literature scholarship to show that they are not mutually exclusive.

In order to study the double transaction, I used the John McKay Shaw Collection of Childhood in Poetry found at Florida State University’s Special Collections as the main source for my research. This collection is made up of hundreds of children's books that range from the late eighteenth century to the late twentieth century; however, this case study will focus on texts from the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century found in the Shaw Collection. I examined one hundred and one bindings from the collection and created a spreadsheet in which I recorded the data I gathered. This thesis is divided into three sections pertaining directly to the studied books and their bindings: bookbinding and class, bookbinding and location, and bookbinding and subject. Alongside the written portion of this research, there is a website containing interactive data to create further connections between bookbinding and children’s literature. Both the website and this thesis contain visual data alongside the analyses.