Simple to sumptuous: Bookbindings 1450 to the present

The function of bookbindings is to hold books together and to protect the pages from wear and tear. Bindings can be basic and practical, but they can also be things of great beauty, intricately tooled in gold leaf, or delicately embroidered in gold and silver thread and coloured silks. They can be bound in leather, vellum, textiles, paper or wood; some originally intended as a temporary cover, others a binding commissioned by a wealthy client and bound to last.

This online exhibition is designed to highlight the variety of binding styles held in the Special Printed Collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library. It accompanies the exhibition 'Simple to Sumptuous: Bookbindings from 1450 to the present', on show at the National Library Gallery 5 April - 19 July 2008.

More about the Special Printed Collections


'Homiliarius doctorum', Cologne: Conrad Winters, de Homborch, ca. 1478.



Joannes Baptista Gratia Dei, 'De confutatione hebraicae sectae'. Strassburg: Martin Flach (Printer of Strassburg), 20 Sept. 1500.



'Proverbes, ecclesiastes or preacher' (Imprinted at London: Richarde Jugge, [1550?]).



Jacques L'Hermite, 'Iovrnael vande Nassausche vloot'. t'Amstelredam: by Hessel Gerritsz ende Iacob Pietersz Wachter, t'laer, 1626.



The book of common prayer, bound with the Holy Bible and Whole book of psalms. Cambridge: printed by Thomas Buck and Roger Daniel, 1638.



John Gauden, 'Eikon Basilike : The pourtraicture of His Sacred Majestie in his solitudes and sufferings'. London: ca. 1649.



Richard Allestree, 'The art of contentment'. Oxford: At the Theater in Oxford, 1675.



Decimus Magnus Ausonius, 'D. Magni Avsonii Bvrdigalensis Opera'. Amstelodami: Apud Ioannem Blaev, 1671.



Joseph Gander, 'The glory of Her Sacred Majesty Queen Anne'. London: Printed for the authour, 1703.



The Book of Common Prayer. Oxford: Printed at the University Press, sold by E. Gardner and Son, 1853.



Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 'Ballads and sonnets'. London: Ellis and White, 1881.



Charles Stuart Calverley, 'Flyleaves'. Cambridge: Deighton, Bell, and Co.; London: Bell and Daldy, 1872.



Hans Christian Andersen, 'Fairy tales', 2 vols. London: William Heinemann, MCM [1900].



Pierre Sonnerat, 'Voyage to the Spice Islands'. Bury St. Edmund's: Reprinted and sold by W. Green, 1781.


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