Publisher's Binding Collection

I began collecting publisher's bindings 35 years ago when I bought a box of 19th Century children's books which were in new condition. With their ornate gilt and colour decorated bindings they were so beautiful that I couldn't bear to part with them. So I sought some justification to not price and sell them. The solution, was obvious; build a collection. Thirty-five years later I have amassed somewhere between 2500 and 3000 examples. When I began, I made, and continue to follow, two rules for acquiring bindings for the collection. Firstly, I would buy only English, American and Canadian bindings, on the assumption that European bindings would be harder to find outside Europe and would be so sparse as to not lend much to the collection. Secondly, the most important, rule ... condition. I decided that, as with the initial lot which prompted it all, I would only buy fine or better copies. I have continued this policy with few exceptions. Publisher's dummys, which had the important part, examples of binding styles inside, I decided didn't need to have fine outer bindings. Inevitably there are a few books with minor faults which I acquired because I felt they were too important to exclude. One book is included in the collection, which is only a good copy. It is there because it was a gift from Sybille Pantazzi, a most remarkable collector and Librarian who I was lucky enough to know. She was years ahead of her time in her many bookish pursuits, and had such a forceful personality that anyone who met her would be unlikely to ever forget her. She had collected Publisher's bindings years before anyone else I know of except Ruari McLean. Important parts of her collection are in Toronto, although, sadly, split between two libraries, The Fisher Library and Massey College (where her books compliment the collection of Ruari McLean purchased by the College years ago.) Miss Pantazzi's ideas on book collecting influenced me greatly and I regret that she died before my collection reached its now impressive size.

For many years I believed my collection must be the best in the world until I encountered the catalogue of the Ellen Morris and Edward Levin Collection exhibited at the Grolier Club and published by William Dailey in 2000. That collection is stunning as displayed in the catalogue, the standards of condition obviously corresponding exactly to those I have sought. I have had to assume that their collection, insofar as it can be assessed by looking in the catalog, is at least equal to mine, if not better. So maybe mine is not the best collection in the world; maybe it's the second best. However, I can be fairly certain that nothing else can be out there which could be better. However, unlike Morris & Levin I have no cut-off date (their's was 1915) but buy any distinctive design I believe appropriate even up to something published today.

This collection is not catalogued. Indeed it has been some years since I have had the space to view the collection together in its entirety. I am working on proper description of the contents and various principles I used in its formation, which will be available soon. A few examples illustrating the general condition are affixed as a link. From time to time I found myself questioning my own standards. For demanding only fine copies meant that even after 35 years my Margaret Arstrong bindings for instance, are perhaps only a third of her total output and the books from Stone & Kimball are probably a lesser percentage of their output. Stone & Kimball are the only publisher whose output as a whole I buy. The only later 20th Century publishers I bought seriously was Alfred Knopf, some of whose bindings exhibit the best characteristics of modern design. But I have bought only those books I found which did exhibit those traits whereas I bought all Stone & Kimball which were in the proper condition.

Because of the space problems mentioned it is not presently possible to give the precise number of volumes in the collection. There may even be more than 3000. Nor will it be feasible to view it without considerable work on our part but we do solicit enquiries.




Quick Search

News & Announcements

Click above for contact details.

eList #56 - Now Online NEW Nov 2018 
Click above for details.

Christmas List 2018 NEW 
Click above for details.

David Mason reflects on 50 years in the book business. 
Published in CNQ 100. Click above to read.

The Pope's Bookbinder available. 
David Mason's memoir of the book business in Toronto can be purchased here.