It was not until the emergence of the artist book in the 20th century that book bindings—a book’s front and back covers and spine—came to be appreciated as more than merely protective or decorative. In the early 1900s, any deluxe artist book—with original print illustrations by a well-known artist, printed on fine papers, and issued unbound in limited quantity—fairly cried out for a creative binding. Collectors of these elegant books often commissioned bookbinders to fabricate unique leather covers with original designs that evoked the spirit or mood of the book’s text or illustrations.
Paul Bonet, binding design for the book Nuits de Paris, by Francis Carco (Paris: Au Sans Pareil, 1927), 1927. Onlays of leather with gold tooling. FAMSF, gift of Earl M. Collier Jr. in honor of Ann and Bill Anderson