The developments of how the manufacture, embossing and blocking of cloth covers was achieved between 1825 and 1850 have been set out elsewhere. However, to set the scene for what came after 1850, I wish to briefly describe the machine embossing of cloth, and show some of the grain types. This lecture also will concentrate upon the cover designs of the United Kingdom. There will be a focus upon the designs for book covers, where the artists signed their work. Many of the designs were made by artists who worked in other fields, particularly book illustration. The identification of signed designs provides a ready point of entry into this subject, and permits grouping. [The second half of the nineteenth century witnessed such an increase in publishing in the United Kingdom that the grouping of designs that are unsigned awaits further detailed study.] What I wish to do today is to show you, in a broadly chronological order, examples of cover designs which show how artists worked to satisfy the tastes of their time. Many of the designs I shall mention are known generically as “publishers’, or edition, bindings”.I wish to show how the designs created achieved their own merit, despite often being made with commercial considerations uppermost. There are many cover designs that are typical, and I shall show by way of contrast designs which are less so.
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