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The British Library holds a superb collection of fine and historic bookbindings. Some were acquired by accident, some came as part of a specifc collection, and some have been deilberately acquired as historical or art historical specimens.
In this highly illustrated - the text of the 1997 Panizzi Lectures - Dr. Mirjam Foot explores the use and purpose of bookbindings and, by implication, the purpose of the study of the book as a physical object. She shows how the techniques of binding and decorating books reflect developments in the book trade itself, and how the production of the binding links with questions of authorship, publishing, reading and collecting; how it relates to the spread of literacy and learning, to education, and to religion, but also to economic and political circumstances and social attitudes. For anyone with an interest in the art and history of the book, this is a fascinating and authoritative study which sheds new light on many aspects of bookbinding in a broad historical context.
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Dr. Mirjam Foot is Director of Collections and Preservation at The British Library.
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