American Bound: Watson's Rare Trade Bindings, Part 1
To encourage scholarship and recognize the artistic contributions in the field of bookbinding design, Watson Library is developing a collection of nineteenth-century American trade bindings, purchased with funds from the Friends of Thomas J. Watson Library. This collection is currently composed of over three hundred decorative books dating from the 1870s through 1930. Spanning the Aesthetic, Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco periods, the collection represents major designers, artists, themes, and techniques.
Beginning in the late nineteenth century, both the Aesthetic and Arts and Crafts movements transformed the field of decorative arts, promoting quality design and beauty found in everyday objects (for more information, see theHeilbrunn Timeline of Art History essay "The Arts and Crafts Movement in America").
The Arts and Crafts movement created new working opportunities for women artists, and a core group emerged that included Sarah Wyman Whitman (1842–1904), Alice Cordelia Morse (1863–1961), and Margaret Neilson Armstrong (1867–1944), who all became pioneers of the artist-designed commercial book cover. For the first time, attractive, decorative bindings were being produced and sold at an economical cost to be enjoyed in everyday life.