Conservation DistList Archives [Date] [Subject] [Author] [SEARCH]

Subject: History of library binding

History of library binding

From: William Henderson <willt>
Date: Thursday, February 1, 1996
This is at least a partial answer to Clara Keyes' inquiry, in Cons
DistList Instance 9:57, about the history of library binding.  The
major reasons for the development of binding outside libraries were
economic.  All but the very largest institutions could not, even a
century ago, generate enough materials to keep a fully rounded staff
of bindery experts fully occupied.  As mechanization came into play
the economics of buying and utilizing machines made the economics
even more pertinent.  In addition, binding is specialized work and
many communities did not have sufficiently large labor pools to
provide the specialized skills.  The result was commercial library
binders in larger metropolitan centers serving library customers
over a wide geographic area.  In a real sense library binding was
the original outsourced service for most libraries in this country.
In the past two or three decades the development of specialized
equipment, new technologies, shortages of space in libraries, labor
supply, and other factors have caused the demise of both in-house
binderies and many smaller commercial binderies and larger
concentrations of binding services in relatively fewer firms.  The
result is that today in this country we find a rather small group of
firms specializing in library binding.

Library binding is different from edition binding because the
library binder works on materials as they are submitted by
libraries, one book, or one volume of a serial at a time.  The
edition binder works on larger numbers of identical volumes all
requiring the same treatment.  One library binder once characterized
his rather extensive business as being analogous to mass producing
tailor made clothing in as much as two copies of the same
publication from two libraries were not apt to arrive in the bindery
at the same time nor were they really identical in many instances
because of differences in wear and tear, policies regarding indexes
and supplements and other variables.  Library binding also differs
from conservation though some library binders do offer conservation
services.  A visit to a bindery offering both is a study in mass
operations in one area and quite the opposite in the other.

William T Henderson
Preservation Librarian
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

                  Conservation DistList Instance 9:58
                 Distributed: Sunday, February 4, 1996
                        Message Id: cdl-9-58-008
Received on Thursday, 1 February, 1996

[Search all CoOL documents]