Bound to be Modern

Bound to be Modern

Kristina Lundblad
Bound to be Modern. Publishers' Cloth Bindings and the Material Culture of the Book, 1840–1914


ISBN: 978-1-58456-313-6
Publisher: Oak Knoll Press

Bound to Be Modern is the most comprehensive study to date on the emergence and function of publishers' cloth bindings. It brings together issues of aesthetics, technique, economy, and social change in order to explain why publishers in the 19th century began to have their books bound, and why decorated clothbindings were so successful as the Western world transitioned into modernity.

This study traces the history of publishers' bindings in a Swedish context--giving the first English-language account of the history of the Swedish 19th century book market--but also makes clear that edition binding was an international affair, with machines, designs, and ideas crossing borders as much as the literary works themselves did. Lundblad takes an interdisciplinary approach, referencing art and design theorists as well as social scientists and philosophers to analyze the complex interactions between books, the book market, and society at large, and to show that bindings not only mirror their historical context but also contribute to the making of culture.

Using over 150 color illustrations, Bound to Be Modern depicts the visual transformation of book covers from traditional ornamental designs to illustrative depictions of modern life, and shows how these changes reflected new ways of interacting with books and literature. The illustrations show not only a wide range of bindings, but also publishers' catalogues, machinery, the interiors of binderies, book stores from different time periods, and commercial graphics. Comparisons with advertising, packaging, posters, and interior decoration demonstrate the place of books within the wider contexts of visual and material culture.

This thorough and well researched study is based on a doctoral thesis and nearly ten years of research, and contributes new knowledge on 19th century binding practices, binding design, and book culture. It is a must for students, scholars, and book collectors who deal with Victorian book culture.

Kristina Lundblad is associate professor in the Division of Book History at the Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences at Lund University, Sweden.