Before bookbinding became mechanized, most books were sold unbound. The purchaser, not the publisher, was responsible for the binding of the book. This meant that one could have his books bound according to budget or taste. Above is an example showing three copies Jean Jallabert’s Experiences sur L’Electricité (1750), bound in three different ways.
The first two volumes are bound using decorative paper – an inexpensive, but attractive option. The third copy is slightly larger because it was bound with another book, and was given a more elegant full leather binding.
Bindings can give us important clues about a book’s history, such as who owned it and how it was used. For this reason, it is often important to preserve a book’s covers as well as its contents. These three volumes will be preserved in the Institute Archives and Special Collections so that we can continue to study them – inside and out.