The art of bookbinding has played an important part of the evolution of the book object, particularly that of the codex (the paginated book). Ancient writings were first transcribed on clay tablets or papyrus scrolls; the paged format familiar to us today was in fact a revolutionary innovation of the Roman Empire. With this new format came the need for bindings that would secure the pages of the book and accommodate a range of uses, document lengths, and decorative styles.
The most common techniques for bookbinding (sewing, folding, and gluing) have remained relatively constant, even as materials and technologies have changed. Contemporary bookbinding benefits from centuries of tradition and experiment, and contemporary bookmakers can choose from a huge range of binding styles to convey essential messages about a book’s aesthetic and content. Many of the books on display here also pay playful homages to historical bookbinding techniques. We hope you enjoy these examples of book bindings from our collection, which showcase a small sampling of the techniques available to book artists today.
This exhibit, co-curated by Wendy Burk and Sarah Kortemeier, was originally presented in the Jeremy Ingalls Gallery of the University of Arizona Poetry Center from December 15, 2014 to February 18, 2015.