Literature Review

This thesis aims to unite scholarship on children’s literature and bookbinding. One of my goals is to establish the importance of the double transaction, which establishes that there is a transaction between publisher, adult, and child when it comes to selling and buying books. The sources and references that I drew on for this thesis focus on the various aspects of children’s literature and bookbinding during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. 

My research builds on Foot’s work in History of Bookbinding as a Mirror of Society. In this text, Foot talks about the transaction between seller and customer and the way in which bookbinding has to appeal to the customer in order for the seller to be able to sell it.  Mirjam Foot’s ideas of bookbinding helped me establish the focus of my thesis because I was able to understand the value that bindings have throughout history. One of the main things I took from this book is the fact that a lot can be said about society based on the bindings used for books; this is interesting because it establishes bindings as historical relics that should be studied and valued more. Foot claims that in bookbinding there is a transaction between “a donor and a recipient,” in which the donor is the seller while the recipient is the buyer (96).

While the concept of bookbinding as a transaction is accurate I felt as if it was not entirely true in regards to children’s bookbinding because children’s bookbinding has two recipients, the parent and the child. When seeing Foot’s concept, I realized that, when it comes to children’s literature, there is an extra step in that transaction that measures how well the parent understands the likes of the child; this extra step becomes crucial to the overall value of the book because, if the child does not like it, then that first transaction becomes useless. Since bookbinding can be influenced by the “occasion for which it was produced” and “its anticipated audience” there needs to be some acknowledgment of the double audience of children’s literature when talking about its bindings (Foot 53). I thus developed the concept of the double transaction which establishes that there is an extra step in the transaction that Foot outlines. The double transaction, as based on Foot’s concept of the transaction, is made up of three individuals – the donor, the buyer, and the recipient. In the case of children’s literature, there is often a difference between the buyer and the recipient since the buyer is typically an adult whereas the recipient is a child.

David Pearson in “Bookbinding History and Sacred Cows” outlines the developments of retail, trade, bespoke, and non-bespoke bindings and thus gave me a sense of the technological developments of the time that were directly related to binding. Edition bindings, which, according to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, are “the binding of books in uniform style usually by mass-production methods and in relatively large quantities,” also changed bookbinding because, as aforementioned, the previous intricate bindings were not efficient enough to keep up with the new demands for books. As I discuss in more detail below, I look more at everyday case bindings instead of bespoke bindings. Pearson focuses on the “every day” bindings that are available for all and the fact that they are “seriously under-represented in this landscape” which points to his attempts to expand the scopes of bookbinding scholarship to include all kinds of bindings and to value them equally (Pearson 498). My research speaks to the need for more work on everyday bindings. These bindings are of importance since they are more representative of society as a whole and, during the time scope of my research, everyday bindings became more accessible and common. Pearson’s focus on the importance of binding also points to a gap in bookbinding scholarship since his focus is on the bindings made for adults. My attempt to bridge the gap between children's literature scholarship and bookbinding scholarship stems from the fact that there has been a lot of focus on adult books in bookbinding scholarship and not a lot of focus on children’s bookbinding.

There are scholarships in children’s literature that have talked about the double audiences in children’s literature; however, these scholarships focus mostly on the text as words, not as a text that is bound. Elizabeth Bullen and Susan Nichols in “Dual Audiences, Double Pedagogies: Representing Family Literacy as Parental Work in Picture Books,” talk about the dual audiences of children’s literature but focus more on the way in which the audiences are not treated as equals. Their ideas do overlap with the concept of the dual transaction particularly when they talk about the “pedagogical address to the adult reader is as significant as the address to the child” because it points out the importance of these two audiences in this genre of literature (Bullen and Nichols 213). However, Bullen and Nichols focus on the text itself and the way in which it addresses its audience or audiences. For instance, the “narratological distinctions between the single, double, and dual address to the reader” are determined through the author’s acknowledgment of multiple audiences (Bullen and Nichols 215); this is something that can be seen in bookbinding because it is up to the publisher to determine to what extent they want to appeal to each audience. If the scholarship of bookbinding was added into their scholarship on the dual audience of children’s literature, there would be a better understanding of this kind of literature as a whole. 

Through scholarship on bookbinding and children’s literature, I was able to establish the topic of my thesis and research. Foot, Pearson, and Crain proved to be the most influential scholars to my research because they gave me some general ideas of the two main topics of my research - bookbinding and children’s literature. While I did use bindings from the Shaw Collection as primary sources for my research, the research made by other scholars helped me figure out what kind of data I wanted to collect and how I was going to tie that data into my arguments for the double transaction and for the bridging of bookbinding and children’s literature scholarship.