On Art Binding

On Art Binding

Otto Zahn

DURING the last two or three decades popular appreciation of art in book binding has grown considerably in this country. Those who were formerly content in the possession of books in paper covers or of edition bindings, are now more and more perceiving the difference between commercial and art binding, and there is an ever increasing number of book lovers, who, desirous of having their favorite authors befittingly dressed, obtain that satisfaction by intrusting them to the care of an art binder of repute, and binders possessing technical skill as well as the art – instinct, now find customers who are willing to pay a fair price for a fine binding. In order to bring about this healthy change of sentiment, and to properly educate the buying public, a great deal of missionary work had to be done.

This was accomplished by means of lectures, by means of illustrated essays, by means of the formation of clubs for the furtherance of the arts and craft, by means of many women making active propaganda for it, and last, but not least, by means of expositions in all the prominent cities of this country. Many women of established incomes, rendering it possible for them to belong to the so-called “unemployed rich,” found in book binding an occupation that proved intensely interesting to them in its study and practice. Several women in scat tered parts of this country derive fair incomes by means of teaching bookbinding to other women pupils, and the end is not yet. Among the more recent expositions in which art bindings were shown, there is perhaps none more interesting than the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, at St. Louis, which will be open until December the first. It is here that many of the bindings illustrating this booklet are shown in all their splendor. That they were found worthy of occupying a space in the Fine Arts Building proves beyond a doubt their high standard and artistic quality.

That they were designed and bound in the Toof Bindery shows that among the firms of art binders in the United States none are more competent than they in the realm of art binding. They have no superior in the happiness of design and the perfection of finish of the books turned out by them. Mr. Zahn, of this firm, under whose personal direction the art binding is done, loves book binding and in his earlier days was employed in some of the best binderies of Europe. He has retained all the wrinkles and recipes, the treasured secrets of cosmopolitan book binding, and out of the multiplicity of methods he has variously encountered, he has evolved a style of his own that characterizes all the bindings bearing the imprint of “Toof & Co.,” and makes the imprint as much a badge of merit as the English hall mark is the guaranty of fine silver. The mirror polish introduced occasionally upon the Toof bindings is at once the envy and the despair of other binders.

The illustrations included in the present booklet show, in so far as black and white can, something of design motifs and the way such motifs have been wrought out. The account of the first books and their subsequent stages that is here presented cannot fail to interest many people whose attention has perhaps not previously been drawn to the theme with which the essay is concerned.


Editorial Rooms,

The Independent, New York City.