The University of Manchester - The University of Manchester Library
First Impressions


In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries customers would be offered their books in a variety of different states. Books were either sold in sheets straight from the printing press, or gathered and stitched with a simple protective cover (usually of paper or limp vellum), or fully bound in leather-covered boards. The wealthiest clients might have their books bound in more elaborate decorated bindings embellished with stamped designs, gold leaf and even precious stones.

The impression of tools, usually heated, on leather without the use of gold is called 'blind' tooling. The technique was brought to England from the Mediterranean in the eighth century. It flourished briefly in the twelfth century, then gained great popularity between 1450 and 1550. Generally bookbinding remained a separate craft to printing and the survival of a fragment of the original bookbinding is often enough to show when, where and by whom a book was bound.