So, occasionally some one may have a book to which he is for some reason greatly attached, and wishing to enshrine it, give the binder a free hand to do his best with it. The binder may wish to make a delicate pattern with nicely-balanced spots of ornament, leaving the leather for the most part bare, or he may wish to cover the outside with some close gold-tooled pattern, giving a richness of texture hardly to be got by other means. If he decides on the latter, many people will say that the cover is over-decorated. But as a book cover can never be seen absolutely alone, it should not be judged as an isolated thing covered with ornament without relief, but as a spot of brightness and interest among its surroundings. If a room and everything in it is covered with elaborate pattern, then anything with a plain surface would be welcome as a relief; but in a room which is reasonably free from ornament, a spot of rich decoration should be welcome.
It is not contended that the only, or necessarily the best, method of decorating book covers is by elaborate all-over gold-tooled pattern; but it is contended that this is a legitimate method of decoration for exceptional books, and that by its use it is possible to get a beautiful effect well worth the trouble and expense involved.
Good leather has a beautiful surface, and may sometimes be got of a fine colour. The binder may often wish to show this surface and colour, and to restrict his decoration to small portions of the cover, and this quite rightly, he aiming at, and getting, a totally different effect than that got by all-over patterns. Both methods are right if well done, and both methods can equally be vulgarised if badly done.
A much debated question is, how far the decoration of a binding should be influenced by the contents of the book? A certain appropriateness there should be, but as a general thing, if the binder aims at making the cover beautiful, that is the best he can do. The hints given for designing are not intended to stop the development of the student’s own ideas, but only to encourage their development on right lines.
There should be a certain similarity of treatment between the general get-up of a book and its binding. It is a great pity that printers and binders have drifted so far apart; they are, or should be, working for one end, the production of a book, and some unity of aim should be evident in the work of the two.
The binding of manuscripts and early printed books should be strong and simple. It should be as strong and durable as the original old bindings, and, like them, last with reasonable care for four hundred years or more. To this end the old bindings, with their stout sewing cord, wooden boards, and clasps, may be taken as models.
— New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1910.
Jost Amman in: Hans Sachs: Eygentliche Beschreibung aller Stände auff Erden, hoher und nidriger, geistlicher und weltlicher, aller Künsten, Handwercken und Händeln. Frankfurt am Main: Feyerabent, 1568.