Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books
A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology

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A square or rectangular piece of leather, cloth, or paper, usually of a different color from that used for covering, and attached to the spine, or (occasionally) the upper cover of a book. Labels display, usually in gilt tooling or blocking, the title of the book, the volume number (if any), the author's name (sporadically before the late 18th century, but regularly since), and, since about 1800, the date of publication.

Labels came into use in England in about 1680 and by 1700 had generally replaced direct lettering on the spine of books. Two labels, one for the title and the second for the volume number came into use in England (probably from France) in about 1730. The title label was usually red and the volume label blue, and later green. Red and black labels have also been used. The so-called open-sided label, i.e., one without vertical side fillets was uncommon before 1795 and was probably introduced by ROGER PAYNE .

Originally, labels were almost always of leather, generally a thinly pared skin, and later SKIVER .

Paper labels, printed from type, or occasionally engraved, began to be used in the second half of the 18th century on the paper spines of boarded books (the earliest known examples dating from 1765). They continued to be the usual method of titling boarded books even after this style of binding was for the most part superseded by publishers' cloth, i.e., the first quarter of the 19th century. They were also used on early cloth bindings, with decreasing frequency after 1832, when the technique of applying gold directly onto the cloth became feasible. See also: FLYSWING , (69 , 156 , 205 , 236 , 320 )

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