Early American bindings have been a core strength of the Society's collection since our founding. The bindings collections comes from four principal sources, Isaiah Thomas, Michael Papantonio, Kenneth G. Leach, and George T. Goodspeed. Thomas had many of the books in his library beautifully bound. Michael Papantonio, 150 years later, recognized the importance of early American bindings and built the premier collection of books bound in America during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Not only are the books handsome to look at, but many are of outstanding importance as historical or literary works. Among the treasures in the Papantonio Collection is a binding produced by John Ratcliff for the Boston merchant Thomas Deane. It appears on Nathaniel Morton's New Englands Memoriall (Cambridge, Mass., 1669). Kenneth Leach assembled some 1,000 volumes in edition bindings as issued by their publishers in the nineteenth century. The Leach Collection demonstrates the commercial side of the presentation of books to the public. A similar collection of just over 150 publishers' bindings, created by George T. Goodspeed, is especially strong in the Ticknor and Fields editions. These "Books in Blue and Gold" were first issued in 1856 and were so called for their characteristic bindings of gold stamped decoration on bright blue cloth.



From the Kenneth G. Leach Collection. Written by John Frost and published by B.B. Hussey in New York in 1836. The boards of this pristine volume are printed in shades of blue, brown, and yellow
The bindings collection is fully cataloged in the General Catalog with the exception of the Leach Collection, which has an inventory online.

Other interesting bindings are scattered throughout the Society's collections. Current cataloging practice calls for the inclusion of physical characteristics terms to describe the various elements of bindings on pre-1877 imprints. These terms, some taken from an approved thesaurus and others established locally, allow interested persons to search the General Catalog for such characteristics as "Aniline dyed cloth," "Binders' tickets," "Gilt edges," "Gold stamped cloth," and "Gold tooled leather." These and addition terms can be found in the compete list of genres/physical formats.



Guides to the bindings at the Society are found in Early American Bookbindings from the Collection of Michael Papantonio, 2nd ed. (Worcester, 1985) and in Hannah D. French, Bookbinding in Early America: Seven Essays on Masters and Methods (Worcester, 1986). The Society has published a series of illustrated articles on bindings in its collections in issues of the Proceedings.

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