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Grolier Club Exhibitions

Practical Bookbinding

First Bookbinding Manual

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Zeidler, Johann Gottfried.

Buchbinder-Philosophie …. — Magdeburg: Rengerische Buchhandlung, 1708.

The Germans were the first to publish technical manuals of bookbinding, and this example is the earliest known. The work includes four engraved illustrations of binding tools and techniques, as well as a number of woodcut figures in the text; but the most striking plate is the allegorical frontispiece, which follows the transformation of a ‘naked’ pile of printed sheets into a stoutly and beautifully-clad volume.

Purchased in 2004. 

A Bindary at Work

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James B. Smith, Booksellers, Philadelphia, ca. 1850s.


This pictorial advertisement for the Philadelphia firm of James B. Smith offers a rare look at the mechanics of the mid-nineteenth-century binding trade.  At the center of the sheet is a cutaway view of the bindery, showing employees cutting, sewing, gluing, and pressing, while in the border detailed vignettes illustrate the various machines and tools used in the binding process. An unusually large female presence in this broadside reflects the fact that binding was one of the few respectable trades open to women at the time. 

Zaehnsdorf on Zaehnsdorf, Bound by Zaehnsdorf 


Zaehnsdorf, Joseph W.

The art of bookbinding. — London: George Bell & Sons, 1880.

Joseph Zaehnsdorf the elder (1816–1886) was born in Budapest and as a young man was apprenticed to bookbinders in Stuttgart and Vienna. He traveled to London in 1837, and in the 1840s established his own bookbinding firm, which continued to flourish after his death under his son, Joseph William Zaehnsdorf (1853–1930).  The younger Zaehnsdorf’s Art of Bookbinding is a detailed overview of the designs, techniques, materials, machinery and staff employed by the firm at the height of its popularity and influence.  Appropriately enough, this copy boasts a Zaehnsdorf binding elaborately tooled in gilt à la fanfare. There is no presentation inscription, but Joseph W. Zaehnsdorf was a Grolier member from 1893 until his death, and the book was quite likely his gift to the Club.

Edith Diehl

Edith Diehl (d. 1953) was born in Brewster, New York. After a period of study in Europe she established her own bindery in New York City, eventually going on to supervise the bindery at the printing house of William Edwin Rudge; and when Columbia University instituted courses in bookbinding in 1934, she was among the first instructors. Her two-volume study, Bookbinding: its background and technique, covers the historical developments of bookbinding and book decoration, as well as traditional binding craftsmanship. First published in 1946, it has become a classic in its field and is still in print today. The Grolier Club purchased the original holograph manuscript in 1983.


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Diehl, Edith.

Bookbinding: its background and technique. — New York: Rinehart, 1946.

Purchased in 1947.

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Diehl, Edith.

Bookbinding: its background and technique [holograph manuscript], ca. 1946.

Purchased in 1983.

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The Holy Bible … — London: Printed by R. Barker and the assignes of J. Bill, 1639.

Edith Diehl, signed binding.