All bibliophiles are familiar with signed bindings, that is, bindings on which the name or the initials of the binder appear.   In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries these were incorporated in the roll and panel stamps then in use, but in later years the name, and frequently the address, of the binder appeared on a stamp or an adhesive label applied after the binding was completed.   These labels are usually known as “binders’ tickets,” and though hitherto the bindings on which they occur have been studied rather than the tickets, I have found that these are worth examining for their intrinsic aesthetic interest, as examples in miniature of the art of the engraver and the craft of the printer.

Cuthbert Handyside, Bookbinder, Newcastle 1

A study of these labels shows that binding was carried on not only in the cities but also in some towns and villages from which bookbinders have now disappeared—for example, Brechin, Bruton, Penrith, Ulverston. This is a reflection of a social phenomenon, the disappearance of large private libraries in country houses, the binding for which was done locally, and not confined as it is now to a few centres mainly in large towns.

Graham, Bookbinder, Alnwick 2

Two types of bookbindings bear binders’ tickets; the earlier are in leather or half leather, done by small firms or individuals for private owners, and the later are mass-produced bindings in cloth for sale through the bookshops—these are known as “edition bindings.”   The tickets themselves are generally of paper, white or coloured, though a few are known of leather.   The examples here named are taken from three sources—The Schiff Collection,1   Major J.R. Abbey’s Collection,2   and the Library of King’s College, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Thomas Brown, Bookbinder, The Arcade, Newcastle 3

The earliest known ticket appears to be that of John Browne, of London, which dates from about 1610, and which was described and illustrated by A.W. Pollard on pp.332-5 of The Library, vol.12, 1931-2.   It is printed, with a border of ornaments, measuring 3 by 3½ inches, and is unique in that it records the name of the person for whom the book was bound.   The wording on the ticket is: “This Booke was bound by John Browne, Citizen and Stationer of London, dwelling in Little Britaine, right over-against Great S. Bartholomewes Gate; For William Rich, of the Middle Temple, London.”

Robert Hetherington, Bookbinder, Gateshead 4

The second ticket, which appears after an interval of a century, happens also to be the largest—it is that of John Linn of Newcastle upon Tyne (no. 6 in the Schiff Catalogue) which is a printed leaf measuring approximately 6 by 4 inches, giving a wealth of information about Linn's commercial activities.   His shop was “at the sign of Locke’s Head, upon the Middle of Tyne Bridge,” where he sold among other things, Bibles, plays, novels, stationery, ledgers, quills, hornbooks, spectacles, and “likewise Dr. Daffy's Great Cordial Elixir, and Stoughton's Elixir.”   The Tyne Bridge mentioned, which was destroyed by flood in 1771, must have resembled Old London Bridge since the narrow roadway was flanked by houses and shops.   John Linn is known to have been at work in 1739, but other details of his career are lacking, except that, again to quote from his ticket, he had been “sometime ago an Apprentice to Mr. Martin Bryson.”

Edmond, Aberdeen 5

Another early user of a ticket was the well-known William Scott, of Edinburgh, who flourished between 1750 and 1780.   His ticket is illustrated in the Schiff Catalogue, no.8: it is oval, with white letters on a black ground, with a border of pearls, and is as elegant as the bindings on which it is found.

The connection between bookbinding and the circulating library is seen on another eighteenth century label, that of Samuel Hazard, of Cheap Street, Bath, who was in business between 1772 and 1806.   This informs us that “Books are lent to read at 4s. a Quarter, or 10s. 6d. the whole Year,” and also that “S. Hazard performs the printing-business with elegance and dispatch; executes binding in general ... likewise sell genuine patent medicines, &c.”   Stationers and booksellers at this period appear to have included patent medicines in their stock; it will have been noticed that John Linn did so.   Two other tickets from Bath show that books were bound by circulating libraries there—those of Collings’ Library, Saville Row, and Upham’s Library (no. 9).   The Collings ticket is the smallest so far known to me—it measures half an inch square.   Both of these tickets date from the second decade of the nineteenth century, and remind us of the number of libraries which must have helped to fill the leisure hours of those taking the waters at Bath.

Thomas Phillips, Bookbinder, 12 Plumber St., City Road, London 6

Other eighteenth century bookbinders whose labels are known include Thomas Brown of Newcastle (no. 3), Christian Kalthoeber, J. Millar (or Miller), and Staggemeier & Welcher, of London.   Brown began business in 1778 in the Groat Market, but two of his labels known to me bear later addresses—Nun’s Gate and the Arcade.   These are oval, bordered with pearls and other ornament.   Kalthoeber’s tickets are among the finest of their kind, being printed or engraved on coloured paper, though unfortunately a vermilion paper which he used has discoloured badly, a point noted in the Schiff Catalogue, at no. 13.   I am informed by an expert on the chemistry of paper that the reason for this is that the colouring matter used was red lead, or minium, and that some chemical action has led to the formation of black lead sulphide.   (The same phenomenon can be seen on similarly coloured bookplates.)   A very handsome folio edition of Caesar’s Commentaries bound in red morocco with gold tooling, now in the Library of King’s College, Newcastle, has Kalthoeber’s large ticket, measuring two inches by one inch, printed in gold on a blue ground.

Samuel Dodge, Bookbinder &c., Stockport 7

Staggemeier & Welcher’s ticket, rectangular with a double line as a frame, is reproduced in no. 21 of the Schiff Catalogue.   Miller’s ticket (no. 8), a simple printed label with no ornament, gives his address as “No. 7, West Street, Seven Dials, opposite the Chapel,” and adds the information “Libraries repaired and beautified.”

In the nineteenth century the number of binders signing their work by means of tickets increased rapidly, and it is impossible to name many of them here, but binders whose tickets are particularly well designed or executed are Barker of Hexham (no. 13), Davison of Alnwick, Mintorn of Bristol (no. 10), Phillips of London (no. 6), Lubbock of Newcastle (Schiff no. 48), Bowtell of Cambridge (Abbey, e), and Crowder of Macclesfield (Abbey, h).

Miller, Bookbinder, No.7 West Street, Seven Dials 8

Most binders’ tickets date from the first half of the nineteenth century, and it is in this period that the edition binding makes its appearance.   Such firms as Burn, Remnant & Edmonds (later Edmonds & Remnants), Jackson, Leighton, and others, specialised in this type of work and placed tickets on their cloth bindings.   J.F. Burn, or Burn & Co., as the firm later became, had an interesting lozenge-shaped label which incorporated the postage rate for the particular volume in which it was inserted.   No. 11 shows a ticket which includes the words “Postage 10d”; others I have seen, on smaller volumes, have “Postage 8d” or “Postage 6d.”   These must have been useful in an age when parcel postage rates were more constant than they are now.

Upham's Library, Bath 9

Such tickets are usually printed, and are in a simple, unadorned style, but one, that of Edmond of Aberdeen, which dates from the middle of last century, incorporates a Gothic framework which is characteristic of its period (no. 5).

Few, if any, of the firms which now specialise in edition bindings sign their bindings by means of tickets, but it is interesting to note that circulating libraries still use labels, usually on the outside of the book, though one well-known London book club pastes its ticket inside the cover.

J. Minton, Bristol 10

It would seem at first sight that the number of types of these tickets is very numerous, but this is not so, since they can generally be classified by their shape or decoration, when they fall into nine main types.   The earlier tickets are generally engraved, and the later ones printed, but no rule can be laid down.

Burn, London 11

I.      Most of the tickets are rectangular, with the longer sides horizontal, enclosed by a frame of a single or double rule.   Abbey’s illustrations of Faulkner (b), Fargner & Lindner (a), and Poole & Harding (f) are of this type, while his J.J. Cowing (d) is of the unusual vertical type.   Collings’ Library, Bath, already mentioned, used a small square ticket.   Several examples of this type can be seen in the Schiff Catalogue—Kalthoeber, Walther, Hering, Mullen and others.   The tickets for Edmond (no. 5), Upham's Library (no. 9) and Burn (no. 11) have already been mentioned. Other binders who used attractive rectangular tickets were Forster Brown of Durham, John Davison of Alnwick, and Robbins and Wheeler of Winchester.

J. Darcy, Bookseller & Binder, 3 (?) Elephant Lane, Dublin 12

II.      “Rectangular with a broken or irregular frame” describes a few labels.   M. & J. Barker of Hexham were using about the year 1817 a fairly large printed ticket (approximately 1¼ x 1 inch) with a frame of pearls having an eight-petalled flower at each corner.   The Schiff Catalogue includes two of this type—Soulby of Ulverston (no. 26), and Bayley of Macclesfield (no. 47).   Brown of Penrith had a ticket with a border of small typographical ornaments, while Loewe’s (London) is bordered by rules with a quarter-circle at each corner.

III.      Many tickets are octagonal, such as Major Abbey’s Quinton of Norwich (i).   Barker of Hexham had a well-engraved ticket of this type (no. 13) which I believe to have been earlier than the M. & J. Barker example mentioned above.   Coates of Darlington (no. 14), Dodge of Stockport (no. 7), Mintorn of Bristol (no. 10) and Davison of Alnwick (an engraved example earlier that that previously mentioned) used such tickets during the first half of last century.

Barker, Bookseller, Stationer & Bookbinder, Marketplace, Hexham 13

IV.      A variation of the last named type is fairly common—octagonal but with concave corners.   Such tickets were used over many years but particularly during the first half of last century.   Storr of Grantham (Abbey's g; Schiff no. 60) with its ferntip edges, is a good example of an engraved ticket of this type, but that of Condie of Paisley (Abbey's j) is somewhat heavy.   Robert Hetherington of Gateshead, who worked in the twenties and thirties of last century, used such a ticket with a double frame (no. 4).   The fine lettering of Darcy’s ticket is rather overshadowed by the thick frame (no. 12).   Jennett & Co. of Stockton-on-Tees, Paul of “24 French Street (Near the Theatre) Southampton,” and Robert Seton of Edinburgh, used similar tickets.

I. Coates, Darlington 14

V.      A few rectangular tickets, printed, with a wavy frame and a star at each corner, are known.   J. & J. Haddock’s, of Warrington, is of this type (Abbey, l), which seems to have been a favourite with several North-country binders—Clarke of Newcastle, Sanderson of Newcastle, and Macleish of Bishopwearmouth (no. 15) had similar tickets.   These last three were at work from the twenties to the forties of last century, and may have had their labels printed by the same printer.

VI.      Some tickets have no frame at all—Linn’s large label has already been mentioned and also Miller’s (no. 8).   Bretherton, who worked for Sir Thomas Phillips at Middle Hill for a few years about the middle of last century, had a dated ticket, one example of which in King’s College Library reads “Bretherton ligavit 1850.”

VII.      An open book would seem to be an obvious symbol for a ticket, but few binders appear to have employed it.   One who did so was Thomas Phillips, of 12 Plumber Street, City Road, London, who was at that address from 1843 to 1862. To his name and address are added “N.B. Gentlemens Libraries repaired in Town or Country.” (no. 6).   Joseph Fenkle, of Graham Street, Alnwick, also used such a ticket.

A. Macliesh, Binder, Cumberland Street, Bishopwearmouth 15

VIII.      Oval tickets are fairly common, and some of the finest examples are of this shape.   The earliest is probably that of Scott of Edinburgh, already referred to.   Dating from the end of the eighteenth century is the fanciful ticket of Bowtell of Cambridge (Abbey, e) which can be described as falling into this group, since though its outline is irregular, it consists of a winged cherub holding an oval label on which are the words “Bound by J. Bowtell Cambridge.”   Two others shown by Abbey are of this type, Crowder's of Macclesfield (h) and Hulbert's of Shrewsbury (k) which has a frame of rays.   William Lubbock of Newcastle, who was in business during the first quarter of last century, had an oval engraved ticket with a scalloped frame.   This is well known and is illustrated in the Schiff Catalogue (no. 48).   Lubbock’s fellow-townsman and exact contemporary, Cuthbert Handyside, appears to have got his ticket from the same engraver (no. 1) since it is identical in style and execution with Lubbock’s.   Another Newcastle binder, Thomas Brown, who was in the Groat Market in 1778, had two later tickets showing addresses at Nun’s Gate, where he was from 1821 to 1827, and the Arcade (no. 3) whither he removed between 1827 and 1833, and where he remained until about 1839.   His tickets are on various tints of paper—white, blue or green—and are occasionally found with the frame trimmed off.   Mullen of Dublin also used an oval ticket, and this is illustrated at no. 41 of the Schiff Collection.

IX.      The last group of these tickets, of which I have seen only a few examples, are circular.   Charles Lewis of London had at least two different types of this shape, as shown by Abbey (c) and in the Schiff Catalogue (nos. 51-56), and his are occasionally of coloured leather, stamped in gold.   Graham of Alnwick had early in the last century a simple but well designed ticket of this type (no. 2).

Our knowledge of the work of eighteenth and nineteenth century binders is still limited, but it could be greatly augmented if owners of libraries or librarians would examine their shelves for examples of binders’ tickets.   Such a search can provide much information which cannot now be obtained by any other means.


1    Ricci, Seymour de. British and Miscellaneous Signed Bindings in the Mortimer L. Schiff Collection. New York, 1935.    [back]
2    Abbey, J.R. British Signed Bindings in my Library. Trans. of the Cambridge Bibliographical Soc., I, 1949-52, pp.270-9 and pl.XI.    [back]

Return to Bibliography