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John M. Olin Library, Level 1, Miniature Books Case

Bound for Beauty

Before publishers started mass producing books with standardized bindings, owners took their books to be bound individually according to their tastes and budget.

Four books with beautifully intricate designs etched into the leather book covers.
Colorful designs and illustrations etched into the outer and inner leather book covers on three texts.

Intricately cut colors of leather, gold tooling, silver, ivory, and even gemstones would adorn the covers of these highly prized books. The Bound for Beauty exhibition explores the most beautiful books in the University Libraries’ collections—both miniature and average size—and the decorative techniques used to produce such beauty.

This exhibition was organized by the Curator of Rare Books, Cassie Brand, for the Washington University Libraries.

Bound for Beauty is generously sponsored by Donald A. and Laura E. Shindler.

Six books lined pages out so that the image captures the locks attached to the bindings of each along with the gold along the pages of some.