Bound to Please: an Exhibition of Fine Leather Bindings from the University of Miami Library is a selection of 70 volumes from the extensive rare book holdings of the Library's Special Collections Department.
The catalog describes and illustrates a diverse and exquisite group of leather bindings dating from the fifteenth through the early twentieth century and includes books from the United States, Cuba, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and The Netherlands.
Book lovers, whether avid collectors, experienced dealers, or serious scholars, understand that one can often "tell a great deal about a book by its cover." With respect to fine leather bindings, the interested and knowledgeable observer can often determine a wealth of information about a particular book. Leather bindings, including the type of skin or skins used to complete the work, may reveal a great deal about the bookbinder, the trade of bookbinding, and the worth or importance of the book.
As the catalog and exhibition illustrate, bookbinders utilize a variety of materials, tools, and techniques to produce their work. Local practices and traditions can help to identify books by the time period and region in which they were produced, often with remarkable certainty. Both the technical competency and the artistic and creative talent of the bookbinder can be featured. In addition, leather bindings with their decorations and applications illustrate technological advances in design and intellectual variations in artistic styles and movements. Fine leather bookbindings often document much about the aesthetics of owners who have commissioned bookbindings. Finally, these bookbindings may serve as a window, or perhaps a mirror, to the varied literary contents held within their pleasing covers.
The exhibition highlights the intricate technical processes required to produce exquisitely detailed bindings. Representations of different binding and finishing techniques and styles such as tree calf, inlaying and onlaying, and diapering are shown. Among the important binders and binderies featured are: the Doves Bindery, Rivičre and Son, Zaehnsdorf, Bayntun, the Kelmscott Press, and the Roycroft Bindery. Texts by Cotton Mather, William Morris, and William Makepeace Thackeray, and works such as the Bible, Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, and Lady Chatterley's Lover are displayed in beautiful bindings that often help to enhance the literary value of these noted works.