Friday, September 9, 2011

Sewing Book Covers

      A book cover is any protective covering used to bind together the pages of a book. Beyond the familiar distinction between hardcovers and paperbacks, there are further alternatives and additions, such as dust jackets, ring-binding, and older forms such as the nineteenth-century "paper-boards" and the traditional types of hand-binding. This article is concerned with modern mechanically produced covers.
      It seems that the first printer to introduce mechanical book-binding was the printer Jorg Schappf, (from Augusta), in particular the Chiromantia, in 1488. Before the early nineteenth century, books were hand-bound, in the case of luxury medieval manuscripts using materials such as gold, silver and jewels. For hundreds of years, book bindings had functioned as a protective device for the expensively printed or hand-made pages, and as a decorative tribute to their cultural authority. In the 1820s great changes began to occur in how a book might be covered, with the gradual introduction of techniques for mechanical book-binding. Cloth, and then paper, became the staple materials used when books became so cheap – thanks to the introduction of steam-powered presses and mechanically-produced papers – that to have them hand-bound became disproportionate to the cost of the book itself.
      Not only were the new types of book-covers cheaper to produce, they were also printable, using multi-color lithography, and later, half-tone illustration processes. Techniques borrowed from the nineteenth-century poster-artists gradually infiltrated the book industry, as did the professional practice of graphic design. The book cover became more than just a protection for the pages, taking on the function of advertising, and communicating information about the text inside.
Sewn book covers are very popular project assignments in both sewing classes and fine art classes. I will link to some fun examples below.