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Library Bindings

Libraries sometimes work with delicate materials, such as pamphlets with paper wrappers, paperback books or poorly constructed hardcover books. In addition, library patrons sometimes damage books by their handling.

For these reasons, libraries will seek to bind (or rebind) these items so they are better able to be used. These bindings are described below.


Buckram Bindings

Buckram book cloth is a heavy, hard-wearing cloth that can be treated to make it scuff resistant and washable. When so treated it is called library or coated buckram and is frequently used for library bindings due to its durability. Both of the books in this photo have been bound in coated buckram. Note the white lettering on the spine, which is frequently used for books in library binding. The brown book had its call number on a label, which has been removed. The gray book has the call number permanently printed on the spine in the same white lettering as the title.


Other library bindings

In this second set, the book on the left is also buckram cloth with portions of the original dust jacket pasted down. The book on the right was originally a paperback. The paperback covers have been retained and glued to the cloth hardcover binding. Title and call number are permanently stenciled on the spine in the classic white library lettering.


Binders’ marks

Sometimes specially bound library books will still carry a label with the binder’s mark.

In addition to library practices, publishers sometimes created more durable library bindings alongside their trade editions.


In 1940, Duell, Sloan and Pearce, offered two editions of this title. One is the trade binding, a lighter blue cloth with dark blue lettering to front cover and spine; the other is their variant library binding, a more durable dark blue pebbled cloth with yellow lettering to front cover and spine. Both offer identical contents: photographs and text printed using blue ink (cyanotype).

Initial text and images courtesy of Alice Voith of My Wings Books.

Please send comments to us at Last updated May 17, 2016.

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