Bound to Please explores the art of finishing, from simple adornments on vellum bindings to exquisite gilt-tooled bindings. More than 60 beautifully bound and tooled works from the late 17th to the mid-20th century are on display, along with some of the tools and materials used by finishers to design and create these artistic forms.
The exhibition is drawn from an extraordinary collection of 200 volumes, a gift to the Sheridan Libraries in 2006 from long-time Johns Hopkins friend, Dorothy McIlvain Scott. Many of the books are decorated with charming fore-edge paintings—scenes painted on the edges of the page—which are only visible when the pages are fanned. More than 20 fore-edge paintings are displayed.
“The scope of the Scott collection enables us to present not only a stunning visual display, but also allows us to trace the history of bookbinding,” said Sophia Jordan-Mowery, the Joseph Ruzicka & Marie Ruzicka Feldmann director of library preservation, and curator of the show.
“Bindings are products of time and place, with uniquely identifiable styles and purposes reflective of their era,” Jordan-Mowery said. “They can be defined by technique or the craftsmanship of a particular binder, and they reveal cultural shifts, changes in materials and technology, and changes in taste. As such, they serve as clues to past and present.”