UTokyo BiblioPlaza invites you to explore all kinds of books, inspiring you with curiosity and discovery. The covers of the books on the web page are printed with various titles and decorated with colorful illustrations and photographs. Book design today has become a site for designers to express their creativity through artistic rendering related to the content of the books. Looking back on the history of books, the books’ design did not always match with, or reflect, their content. There were various styles, from the patterns on the cover to the binding methods, that were unique across time and regions.
This book addresses the history of bookbinding in France, where the gold tooling was significantly advanced. Until the early twentieth century, bookstores in Paris sold temporary bindings and readers brought them into bookbinding workshops to order leather bindings according to their preference. Bookbinders covered books with Moroccan leather, calfskin, and so on, while gilders decorated covers and spines with gold leaves. This book takes a close look into reliure known as traditional French bookbinding, tracing it back to its origin in the literary control under the royal power of Ancien Régime. According to a dictionary published in the 18th century, nearly 200 bookbinders lived then, despite the decline in their number today. In the late 17th century, publishers were divided into two guilds under the royal ordinance of Louis XIV: bookbinders and gilders on the one hand, and printers and booksellers on the other. Binders were ordered to open their bookbinding workshops near the University of Paris.
Royal bookbinders played a role in the development of gold tooling in the 17-18th centuries under the patronage of aristocrats, creating decorative patterns with pointillé, dentelle, and other techniques. Bookbinding of this time is considered at its most elaborate and refined. This book is unique in its approach to bookbinding as it looks into technical changes through not only the cover design, but also through less apparent aspects, such as analysis of binding processes and usage of gilding tools. In particular, the book offers an overview of how binding processes were regulated under the royal control and highlights three bookbinding structures: the vrais nerfs, faux nerfs, and reliure à la grecque. Deeper understanding of how bookbinders created the structural patterns in their book trade will enhance appreciation of the spine designs aligned in book shelves.
The red cover of this book is in a dentelle pattern passed on by a binder called Amand, while the jacket cover is in blue. Amand is well-known for pioneering book designs based on book contents before the time of Marius-Michel, a leading bookbinder of the 19th century. The gold tooling is in his dentelle pattern, created for an 18th century poetry book is reproduced in gilding of today. I hope this book will be a doorway leading deeper into the long history of books.
(Written by NOMURA Yuri, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology / 2018)