In binding, then, as in the other bookish arts, the part which English workers have played has been no insignificant or unworthy one, and the development of this art, as of the others, in our own country is worthy of study. In this case much has already been done, for the illustrations of English Bookbindings at the British Museum, edited, with introduction and descriptions by Mr. W. Y. Fletcher, present the student with the best possible survey of the whole subject, while the excellent treatises of Miss Prideaux and Mr. Horne bring English bookbinding into relation with that of other countries. Here, then, there is no need of a new general history, but rather of special monographs, treating more in detail of the periods at which our English binders have done the best work. The old stamped bindings of the days of manuscript, the embroidered bindings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the leather bindings of Mearne and his fellows under the later Stuarts, and the work of Roger Payne—all these seem to offer excellent subjects for unpretentious monographs, and it is hoped that others of them besides the English Embroidered Bindings, with which Mr. Davenport has made a beginning, may be treated in this series.
In other subjects the ground has not yet been cleared to the same extent, and for the history of English Book-Collectors and English Printing, not special monographs, but good general surveys are the first need. To say much on this subject might bring me perilously near to re-writing the prospectus of this series. It is enough to have pointed out that the bookish arts in England are well worth more study than they have yet been given, and that the pioneers who are endeavouring to enlarge knowledge, each in his own section, may fairly hope that their efforts will be received with indulgence and good-will.
ALFRED W. POLLARD.
The application of needlework to the embellishment of the bindings of books has hitherto almost escaped special notice. In most of the works on the subject of English Bookbinding, considered from the decorative point of view in distinction from the technical, a few examples of embroidered covers have indeed received some share of attention. Thus in both Mr. H. B. Wheatley’s and Mr. W. Y. Fletcher’s works on the bindings in the British Museum, in Mr. Salt Brassington’s Historic Bindings in the Bodleian Library and History of the Art of Bookbinding, and in my own Portfolio monograph on ‘Royal English Bookbindings,’ some of the finer specimens of embroidered books still existing are illustrated and described. But up to the present no attempt has been made to deal with them as a separate subject. In the course, however, of the many lectures on Decorative Bookbinding which it has been my pleasure and honour to deliver during the past few years, I have invariably