Gallery of Book-Cloth Grain Patterns

The cloth used to cover books is an often-overlooked element of decoration. Not only is the color of the cloth an important consideration, but the texture, or grain pattern, of the cloth may be used to add depth and detail to the design of the binding.

The earliest book-cloths were produced in England in the 1820s. Most were cotton, with some experimentation in silk. These early cloths have been described as primative and were not instantly popular with the reading (and buying) public. Soon book-cloth manufacturers began to add texture to the material in an attempt to mimic the appearance of leather and thus increase the appeal of cloth. One of these early grain patterns is morocco, to which an "embossed grain" was applied. Other means of decorating book-cloth, such as ribbon embossing, soon followed.

By the mid-19th century many styles of cloth were available to publishers in large quantities and at a relatively low price. During the period covered by PBO, at least 25 distinct grain patterns were in use. Styles span from simple textures like that of calico to more ornate patterns such as hexagon.

American publishers' bindings were bound in cloth imported from Britain during most of the 19th century. American companies began manufacturing book-cloth in earnest in the 1880s, and by 1900 most books in this country were cased in cloth that was made in the U.S.A.

Click on an image below to enter the gallery.

patterned sand


Gaskell, Philip. A New introduction to Bibliography. Oak Knoll Press, 2000.

Krupp, Andrea. "Bookcloth in England and America, 1823-50." Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 100:1 (2006): 25-87.

Tanselle, G. Thomas. "The Bibliographical Description of Patterns." In Studies in Bibliography. Vol. 23. Charlottesville, Va.: Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia. 71-102. 1970.

Tomlinson, William and Richard Masters. Bookcloth, 18231980. Mellor, U.K.: Tomlinson, 1996.

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