Pre-Ornamented Cloth Bindings
While studying the Library Company’s extensive collection of 19th century books, Jennifer Rosner and Andrea Krupp discovered a previously unrecognized technique of book cover decoration. They published their findings in the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America in June 2000. The article “Pre-ornamented Bookcloth on Nineteenth-century Cloth Case Bindings” documented 20 pre-ornamented designs. “Pre-ornamented” bookcloths, as they are now called, are quite rare, and date from 1835 to about 1846. Thanks to contributions from friends and collectors the list of pre-ornamented designs now numbers 39 patterns.

To create a pre-ornamented pattern, bookcloth was rolled through a press fitted with engraved cylinders, and the designs for both the spine and covers, including the surrounding grain, were embossed in one pass through the press.

A rubbing of a “pre-ornamented design, which is cut into the metal die, will mainly appear in the positive in a rubbing, because when embossed, the design appears to be raised above the surface of the board. By contrast, stamped designs, whether in gold or in “blind”, are recessed below the surface of the board when stamped. When a rubbing is made, most of the design appears as a negative.

The 39 images presented here represent the complete catalogue of pre-ornamented patterns. However, new patterns are occasionally found. If you suspect you have discovered a new pre-ornamented pattern, we would be happy to take a look at it and include it in our catalogue.
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