American Trade Bindings

One of the great things about the used & rare book trade is that it’s not unusual to gain knowledge from your customers, particularly those who are dedicated collectors.  There are many, many areas of book collecting to learn about, and you need never stop learning.  Recently a very nice customer visited us from North Carolina whose area of interest is American Trade Bindings, and we had an interesting morning talking about it (when I could pester him during his breaks from browsing the shelves).   I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with this intriguing niche, but it occurred to me that you might appreciate learning something about it.

“Where the Souls of Men Are Calling” – Britton Publishing Co., NY, 1918

"The Resolute Mr. Pansy" - Roberts Brothers, Boston, 1897

"The Wood Fire in No. 3" - Scribner's, NY, 1905

The glory time of the illustrated book cover was short lived.  Because of economic factors due to the World  War I, the era of beautifully decorated cloth bindings came to a close around 1920, with most American publishers going back to the cheaper plain boards, adorned with paper dustjackets.   Graphic artists found new opportunities in

the art and design of these jackets as they also evolved from plain to illustrated.

"Caroline of Courtlandt Street" - Harper, NY, 1905

This is a rewarding collecting area because the books are generally quite beautiful, incorporating many different styles and artists, and because it is more affordable than most areas of book collecting—at least for the present time.  Although the books are collected primarily for their lovely bindings, rather than for their content, some are by well known authors and have great content as well.

The books shown here are available at our on-line store.

"The Way to Peace" - Harper, NY, 1910

“Lord Cammarleigh’s Secret – Little Brown, Boston, 1907

Websites of interest to whet your appetite on the subject:


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