Department of Early Printed Books

Publishers‘ Bindings

The Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin has exceedingly rich holdings of books printed in the 19th and 20th century; this is why the library is a member of the consortium Sammlung Deutscher Drucke (SDD) with special responsibility for the time frame 1871 to 1912.

In the course of industrialization the development of the production of books has been fast-paced especially since the second half of the 19th century. More and more books were sold with bindings that had been manufactured industrially. While prior to that every book produced manually was an individual copy, books have become a bulk commodity.

When books started to be sold as goods in bulk, their bindings were of particular importance, especially in view of the then developing culture of shop-windows and show cases of booksellers and department stores. Today, it is our special concern to preserve as many as possible of the original publishers’ bindings, above all those from the SDD-period, because often enough the copy of the Staatsbibliothek is the only complete copy in Germany.

Since 2007 more than 1,000 of the library’s publishers’ bindings could be repaired or restored. At the same time information concerning artists, binderies, material or colours is collected and recorded in the VEBD segment of the library’s online catalogue as a basis for further research. Bindings produced by Hübel & Denck at Leipzig, for instance, have been recorded already, also some specimens from steam binderies.

Publishers’ bindings with elaborate designs have always been incorporated into the special Collection of Bindings. Until recently there were, however, no mechanisms in place to protect and preserve less conspicuous bindings. When they were defect, they were usually removed (and thrown away) and replaced by solid plain library bindings. In recent years, however, publishers’ bindings have come to be held in much higher esteem as important sources for the history of art as well as the history of industrialization.