THE ART OF BOOKBINDING.
AN INTERVIEW WITH MR.
To read the address, " The Doves
Bindery, 15 Upper Mall, Hammersmith," sets
one's wits to work puzzling—not about its locality,
for the path that leads to Kelmscott House is as
familiar to artistic as to socialistic folk ; but as to
the connection of doves with bookbinding. Shortly
before you reach it, however, " Doves Place," and
the sign of the old riverside inn, "The Doves,"
make the origin of the name obvious enough.
The narrow flagged street close to the river-bank
has fallen in its fortunes ; its mansions have gone
into trade. Opposite the " Bindery " is a fine old
house, now the factory of Messrs. Walker & Boutall
and the Kelmscott Press of William Morris ; close
at hand is Kelmscott House, whereon is a tablet
with an inscription that the first electric telegraph,
8 miles, was made there in 1816 by Sir Francis
Ronalds ; so the neighbourhood has an interest in
its past and present beyond the average.
Mr. Cobden-Sanderson, who worked alone for
some years, and produced his masterpieces in book-
binding only indirectly for the public, has now
extended his operations, and with capable assistants
has bravely started a " Bindery." But the term
must not be understood as modern use would lend
us to infer. Here are no steam presses and
guillotines, no sham bindings—that are no more
worthy of the name than the so-called cloth cases
of the publishers. Nor under his care are books
machine-sewn, machine-cut, and turned out any-
how at the rate of thousands a day. On the con-
trary, the old processes, hardly changed in any
detail from those in use at the earliest times of
which we have pictorial record, are still employed
to slowly but surely build up books that are first of
all admirable for their workmanship, and then
beautiful, not so much, however, by the applied
ornament as by that distinctive wholeness of which
the decoration is only the last touch giving to
each book its own separate individuality. For it
must not be forgotten that the true beauty of a
book lies not solely in the mere ornamentation.
To imitate Mr. Cobden-Sanderson's designs in
solid blocks and stamp them in facsimile would
result in a sort of likeness of course—as much as
exists between an oleograph of an old master
and the original canvas .' To the untrained eye
the oleograph may not merely equal but surpass
its original, especially in the matter of cost; yet
those who know prefer the genuine painting. The
lover of good bookbinding appreciates not merely
the tooling but also the manner of the binding
which results from infinite pains in every detail.
It is this patient, careful labour that from the first
moment to the last tries no short cuts and aims at
no feats of legerdemain, is content to add stitch to
stitch, line to line, until the work has been wrought
so honestly and with such neat painstaking that,
whether with a few finishing touches in lettering,
or with a simple or splendid ornamentation, as the
character of the book itself demands, beauty is
found at last to have crowned the effort for utility
—it is this which converts the craft of binding
FROM THE ORIGINAL BY T. J. COBDEN-SANDERSON
into an Art and not the stamp or the tooling of
the adroit finisher:
Upstairs, in a room overlooking the Thames, I
found Mr. (Jobden-Sanderson, who, in answer to
my first question, said :
"Yes, binding comes before decoration. It is
the more important of the two. But good binding
is not always possible."
" Have you any complaint against the modern
publisher—are there any shortcomings in his
work that militate against good binding ? "
"Yes, many. The characteristics of a good
binding are that, whilst holding the sheets of a
book in permanent order and protecting them, it
shall facilitate their perusal and examination.