Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A German View of English Bookbinding

From The British Bookmaker, Vol V., 1891-92.

An English, French, and German bookbinder meet in a bar... Often contentious, yet unavoidably fun at bookbinding conferences among the older generations. The youngsters just shake their heads... Here are the German's thoughts on English binding. It should be remembered that a great number of Germans emigrated to England to work as binders making this more interesting.

Click to Enlarge and Read

From this we see that the English book is remarkable for its durability, but of decorative style and taste there is a complete absence. Clumsy are the stamps and poor are the designs in a style not worthy of mention, but the national pride of the Englishman keeps him from studying the work of other nations, either to benefit by it or even to copy it, except a few old historic and well-known originals: they have a chance of being copied, but even in the styles of Roger Payne or Harley they use massive ornaments that require very cleverly putting together to make a tasteful ensemble.

All of this is debatable, so get a beer and sit back. I'd love to hear what the British of the same era think of the Germans, what the French think... Attitudes haven't changed all that much.  

When it comes to design/fine binding, my interests really begin in the 20th century with a preference for German vellum and paper case-bindings (especially with pastepapers), and anything French art-deco. In leather design/fine bindings the French aesthetic just can't be beat. Just plain elegant (with the leather too thin...) and mind blowing. The Germans with typographic designs are also hard to beat, but their structures are a bit more Teutonicly robust. For utilitarian, everyday binding the German case in cloth or paper is it.
What are your opinions of the various national traditions?