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© 1997 – October 2022

The Legacy Press

Ann Arbor, Michigan USA


The Legacy Press


Books about the Printing, Paper, and Bookbinding Arts

"Julia Miller embarked on an ambitious journey when she set out to write Meeting by Accident: Selected Historical Bindings. Book conservators, indeed book lovers in general, should be grateful for her diligence.... Julia Miller’s Meeting by Accident: Selected Historical Bindings, can be interpreted as a quiet yet persuasive call to preservation action, within the volume she is: asking conservators and curators to look at under-appreciated structures with new eyes; teaching them in great detail how to study book structure, thereby tempering decisions regarding the care and custody of historic materials; and fostering an appreciation of the value of historic models both for instructing the professionals as well as students.…" Click to read the entire review by Barbara Adams Hebard in "The Bonefolder • Extras."

"This is a large and dense book, not in the sense that it is difficult to read, but rather that it is packed with detail – in some contexts too much perhaps – and many individual examples. Miller's thesis presents a simple equation, and one that is repeated, that the greater the pool of information that is accumulated in respect of bindings, the better the prospect of individual bindings being noticed, studied, preserved, and given the prospect of future evaluation – future generations may assess them differently. It is hard to argue with that. A final word about the publication itself; it is superbly well designed, printed and illustrated, both in volume and quality, in keeping with [The] Legacy Press tradition.…" Alan Isaac, Society of Bookbinders Newsletter (April 2018)

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.



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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 bindings.


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



707 pages   •   717 illustrations   •   full color   •   hardcover   •   10 x 7 in.


plus a DVD with 652 additional images and video


ISBN: 9781940965079   •   $125.00