A treat for the fine booklover, or anyone who enjoys the excellent artistry of bookbinding: The Kelliegram Binding.
Kelliegram bindings often involved intricate leather work, such as leather inlays or onlays to create an image, a scene, or a mosaic effect. It was common for the Kelliegram binders to choose an engraving from the body of the book and recreate it in leather for the cover image.
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Kelliegram bindings were one of many innovations of the English commercial binding firm of Kelly & Sons. The Kelly family had one of the longest connections in the history of the binding trade in London, having been founded in 1770 by John Kellie, as the name was then spelled. The binding firm was carried on by successive members of the family into the 1930s. William Henry Kelly significantly developed the company in the first half of the nineteenth century, followed by William Henry, Jr., Henry, and Hubert Kelly, who took control in 1892, taking the firm into the twentieth century.
In the 1880s, Kelly & Sons began to use cloth with the reverse side showing for the sides of half-leather bindings. The reverse cloth had a more interesting and less artificial appearance, with an additional advantage of not being affected by water. The development that came to be known as Kelliegram was one of the bindery’s most notable, and the popularity continues today as demonstrated by the prices Kelliegram bindings command at auction and in the rare book trade.
To see more fine examples of leather inlays, enjoy our article Mosaic in Morocco: Inlaid Leather Bindings. To explore other legendary bookbinders and their bookbinding techniques, check out Bound to Be Beautiful: Best of the Bookbinders.