5.1.6: 1910 - heden - Bookbinding (incl. bookbinderies)

In this period, the industrial publisher's binding consolidated the strong position it had gained in the previous century. Mechanisation continued to expand. Where at the beginning of the century all process were still carried out separately, after the Second World War the binding production lines gradually developed, where the separate sections and materials go in one end and finished books come out the other. The industrial binding therefore gained a high average degree of perfection. The arrival of strong glues meant that books were often no longer sewn; after the section had been cut off at the spine, the separate sheets were glued into a wrapper, as, for instance, the paperback.

'Nieuwe Kunst' (Dutch Art Nouveau) was followed in the twenties by Art Deco, whereby the design of the bindings became more and more linear. The designs were created by the book's designer or illustrator. However, the publisher's desire to have the covers of his books stand out in the shops resulted in exuberance in certain genres and series of books. While before the Second World War bindings were mainly carried out in linen and paper, after the war other materials were used as well, including synthetic materials which provided new possibilities for decoration.

The hand-made binding developed entirely differently during the twentieth century. The beginning of the century saw it flourish somewhat, continuing into the twenties. Of the institutional schools for manual bookbinding that existed at the time (the earlier training in the workshop had all but disappeared by now), the girls' Day School for Drawing and Applied Arts in Amsterdam deserves to be noted. After merging in 1923/1924 it became the Institute for Education in Applied Arts, with Johan B. Smits, who led the Institute until 1939, as its most prominent teacher. His students' work was characterised by the use of small geometrical tools which, used in varying positions produced ever-changing patterns. His students, mainly women, learnt to cut these tools themselves. Whilst men like Dirk N. Esveld (1877-1960) anonymously produced hand bookbindings while working in large companies, women increasingly carried the trade, partly because they did not have to support families. The number of collectors in the Netherlands that had luxury bindings made, decreased. Many binders who appeared to be promising talents in the twenties, were almost out of work by the thirties.

The economic crisis heralded a long period of recession, which in fact continued until the seventies. Prominent binders who remained in the trade were Elisabeth Menalda (1895-1997) and Dieuwke Kollewijn (born 1918). In the seventies a revival in hand bookbinding began. On the one hand the better economic climate resulted in an increase in demand for hand-made bindings for special projects and for the restoration of old books. On the other hand bookbinding as a hobby, which could lead to very professional results, had a positive effect. Around the year 2000, the Netherlands once again had a number of hand bookbinders who were able to work on a purely professional basis. The most prominent binder of the seventies and eighties was Janos A. Szirmai (born 1925), who won a number of important international prizes.

author: Jan Storm van Leeuwen

Bookbinding (incl. bookbinderies)