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© 1997 – 2017

The Legacy Press


The Legacy Press


Books about the Printing, Paper, and Bookbinding Arts


Expected late 2017


Meeting by Accident

Selected Historical Bindings


Julia Miller

Julia Miller’s second book grew out of the experience of

writing Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying

and Describing Historical Bindings, now a recognized classic

text on the subject. Meeting by Accident: Selected Historical

Bindings is a very different sort of book, however. The

bindings described in Meeting by Accident all had their initial

fascination for Julia as she was researching Books Will Speak

Plain, and though she wrote briefly about some of the

binding types in that book, she continued to study them

and decided to write more about them. Past research and

writing has identified, and to a degree defined, many types

of binding, and we tend to repeat the ideas and assumptions

of past scholars, without question and without exploration.

There is still a great deal of research and writing yet to do

to identify and describe yet other binding types, but there is

also the need to revisit and perhaps add to past research, as

we piece together binding history, and answer more of the

“what” and “why” and “how” questions concerning historical



Research into the history of the book and bookbinding

makes our historical bindings relevant again and makes

them better company. Studying and understanding and identifying and describing give us more information to consider when we must make decisions about our historical books. Accumulating this information most affects our great institutional collections, and to an extent, private collections, because the custodians of those collections have often tried to pay attention to issues of rarity and importance beyond content. There is certainly a growing and very welcome and broader interest today about the whole book (text and binding), its materials and structures, and the ways that time and use marks books, all books. Custodians and scholars have both arrived at the point where they realize materiality and marking are equally important, and sometimes just as important as content, for understanding the impact of books on culture, and culture on books. Important research is being done on every type of historical binding practice, and it is clearly becoming easier for scholars to find each other, to find the books they are interested in studying, and to publish and share information.


The chapters of Meeting by Accident range across a broad spectrum of binding history, and some of the chapters are intended to change our thinking about what constitutes an “important” binding type. The question we might want to begin asking ourselves is “How is this binding important?” instead of whether it is important. Asking this question might lead us to augment present, and often limited, scholarly descriptions (or the lack of any description) for some binding types.




Chapter 1. Beyond Tree Calf: Bindings Decorated by Staining


Chapter 2. Not Altogether Unpleasing: The Experiment with Canvas Bindings


Chapter 3. Wrapped with Care: Overcovers


Chapter 4. Good Enough for Galileo: Books Made for Scholars


Chapter 5. A Gift from the Desert: A Report on the Nag Hammadi codices, co-authored with Pamela Spitzmueller


Chapter 6. A Model Approach


Early American cloth binding.

George Keith. The Presbyterian and Independent Visible Churches in New-England and Elsewhere…. Philadelphia: William Bradford, 1689.

Courtesy of The Rosenbach Museum & Library.