Bookbinding and Location

Fairyland in 1918.jpeg

The bindings that I looked at come from publishers based in both the United States and the United Kingdom. The geographical distance between these two countries points to some differences in the aesthetic of the bindings based on the different societal book preferences and values. Out of the one hundred and two books I looked at, twenty of those had United Kingdom-based publishers whereas the other seventy-four had United States-based publishers; however, four of the books I looked at had a United Kingdom and United States-based publisher. The majority of the books published in the United States that I looked at were published in New York, Chicago, or Boston; on the other hand, the books published in England were only published in London. Where publishing is localized shows different trends in the publication of children’s literature in both countries; there is a lack of publisher representation in the bindings of the British books but, if there is any identification on the binding it is in regards to the author. Five out of the eleven books that include the author’s name on the binding are British books; while this seems like a small number, there are only four British books that include the publisher's name on the cover.  There is an evident lack of identification in the British bindings which forces the focus of the audience to be solely on the title of the book and any imagery found on the covers. Fairyland in 1918 (1919) is one of the books with the author name on the binding; however, the publisher of this book is actually the author themselves which points to the author name being used when there is no big publishing company that is publishing the books. There are only eleven other self-published books, excluding Fairyland in 1918 (1919), and these were mostly published in London since eight out of those eleven books have London as their place of publishing, such as Poet’s Day Dreams (1853) and The Child’s Garland of Little Poems (1878). It is interesting to see self-published books during this time because only recently did self-published books become more prevalent than books published by big publishing houses. In 2009 was when society saw self-published books “overtaking the number of books published by mainstream publishers” and, when looking at books during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, I did not expect to be looking at any self-published books (Bradley 107). Self-published books point to an interesting aspect of bookbinding because the author has complete agency on the binding and content of their books so they, individually, have to find ways to appeal to both parents and children both within the text and within the binding; this is an inherent unison of bookbinding scholarship and children’s literature scholarship since the author plays the extra role of publisher. The authors who published their own books were wealthy men who had enough agency within the field of publishing and literature to publish their own books without a publishing house. 

Sunny Days.jpeg Snow Time Stories.jpeg Pretty Ones.jpeg

In a lot of the bindings I assessed, especially those published in the United States, the publisher's name and location are printed on the front cover. The manner in which this information is printed points to the value that was given to the publishers during this time. For example, all of the twenty-nine books published by Lothrop Publishing Co. that I looked at had the publishing company name and location on the cover; this points to the value placed on publishers and their location because it establishes the importance of books being part of the history of books within their respective countries. The inclusion of the publisher name and location on the binding serves as a way to get parents to buy their children more books from the same publisher, especially if they are part of the same series; this points to publishers having brand identities that they want to emphasize and convey in their bindings. It is interesting to note that a vast majority of the books I looked at did not have the author’s name printed anywhere on the binding and instead either had the publisher name or had no identifier other than the title. The book Sunny Days (1900), Snow Time Stories (1904), and Happy Hearts (1900) are some examples of the Lothrop Publishing Co. that contains the publisher name and date on the cover; however, other publishing companies also put their name on the cover of their published books as is evident through The Little Drummer (1880) published by McLoughlin Brothers and Pretty Ones ABC Book (1901) published by W.B. Conkey. If a parent sees that their child really enjoys books from a certain publisher, it is probable that they will continue to buy books from that publishing house.

In terms of important locations for publishing in the United States, places like New York, Chicago, and Boston were at the center of publishing. Most of the books published in the United States that I looked at were published in Boston. There is a significance to Boston being an important place for bookbinding because it was, and continues to be, a big, developed city that could ship out books across the nation without many problems. New York and Chicago also fall under big, developed cities and it makes sense for them to be the other two big publishing cities in the United States. Boston and New York have consistently been metropolitan cities in the United States and can thus be seen as representative of American society. The fact that so many American books were printed in these metropolitans establishes, in a sense, the norms of bookbinding because the publishing companies were appealing to a broad range of people and could know and represent their likes and needs better than a company based in a smaller, more secluded city. There are however some books that were published in smaller cities such as Cincinnati but these were isolated cases. The publishing location of books also meant that the big publishing houses were located in these cities. For example, Lothrop Publishing Co. based in Boston published twenty-nine of the books I looked at, and W.B. Conkey Co. based in New York, Chicago, and London published seventeen of the books I looked at; these were the most prevalent publishing companies I saw throughout my data collection and analysis. David Pearson claims that “books have been emblems of our culture and regarded as one of the defining characteristics of a developed nation” (7). Pearson’s observation shows the importance of bookbinding in regards to the location in which they were bound and distributed.  Looking at books and their bindings as historical archives that tell the history of different societies establishes the value of bookbinding in regards to the preservation of history. By looking at bindings from different geographical locations I was able to understand the different society-based trends that can be found in binding and the way in which bookbinding developed differently across the globe.