Journal Article

Aesthetic Issues in Book Cover Design 1880–1910

Ellen Mazur Thomson

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 23, issue 3, pages 229-245
Published in print September 2010 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online September 2010 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI:
Aesthetic Issues in Book Cover Design 1880–1910

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  • History of Art
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This essay examines the aesthetic issues that book binders and their chroniclers addressed in France, England and America from 1880 to 1910, a period during which the aesthetics of book covers became a topic of passionate debate. In this debate, the distinction between fine hand binding and commercial cloth binding was of less concern than the function of the book as a designed object, the book cover's relation to the text it enclosed and the appropriate forms of decoration for book bindings. It is generally acknowledged that the field was reinvigorated, if not transformed, by two bookbinders, Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson (1840–1922) in England and Henri François Marius Michel (1846–1925) in France. Both men rejected the duplication of traditional decorative schemes and aspired to a more personal, artistic expression. These ideas are analysed as responses to the challenge of designing objects for the world of mass production.

Keywords: bookbinders; book binding; book design; decorative arts; decorative design; ornament

Journal Article.  9496 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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