SOME NOTES ON THE HISTORY
DEVELOPMENT OF BOOKBINDERS'
STAMPS TOOLS, by Kenneth Hobson
KENNETH HOBSON i's an English artist who has worked extensively in
Italy, Germany, Spain, etc.; ilhistrated books on travel and other subjects, and
whose work has been seen at various London galleries, including the Royal
Academy. Prints and progressive proofs ofhis color prints from multiple copper
plates haue been acquired by the Print Room of the British Museum. Mr. Hobson
is even better known, however, as designer and a director) of the worldfamous
London bookbinders, Sangorski Sutcliffe.
Fellow apprentices in London during the 1890 s, Francis Sangorski and George
Sutcliffe later worked with Douglas Cockerell, starting their own business in
1902. The beauty and craftsmanship of their elaborate bindings brought the
partners early and lasting success. Recent commissions include the
binding for the monumental American Roll of Honour, now in
St. Paul's Cathedral, and the Bible used during the
Coronation of Elizabeth II at the Ceremony
in Westminster Abbey.
To the collector and Student the history of bookbinding design has always pre-
sented an absorbing and at times a somewhat bewildering study. It was seldom
that Master Binders of the past signed their work and attribution in many cases
can only bc decided by provenance and content of the book or manuscript covered.
Although this short note is primarily to illustrate the design of some tools
and sets of tools which have been devised and engraved by binders through the
centuries to adorn, embellish and in some cases to denote ownership of their work,
some remarks are necessary on the history and development of the ancient Craft.
The earliest books in our sense of the word were inscribed vellum or parch-
ment leaves written on the fold, stitched up together 011 heavy thongs of hide,
practica!ly bundles of mss., suffering damage in use until the idea was hit upon to
provide sides of wooden boards into which the thongs were laced and pegged.
This was, of course, a very clumsy affair but developed into a more practical volume
when the exposed back was covered with a Strip of leather or hide. Modern binders
still use this mediaeval or monkish style for appropnate books. Using beautifully
grained polished wood, and tooling the leather back and the exposed portion of
the sides, such bindings can be very handsome indeed.
It was but a step from this to the complete covering of the wooden boards with
leather or fabric. Some of these early füll leather bindings had the hair left 011 the
hide and some allowed the leather from one of the Covers to flow out in a sort of
apron in which the precious book could be swaddled and carned about without
fear of damage.