& Gold: The Art of Metal Stamping
Hand tooling in gold was a common
method for decorating and labeling leather-bound books
before the era of publishers’ bindings. Around 1834,
when cloth bindings began to come into use, stamping was
often used as the choice technique for decoration due to
efficiency and ease.
stamping first appeared on bindings in England in 1832
and quickly spread to the United States, where it enjoyed
great popularity. First used in the United States around
1838, the mechanical embossing press, which applied the
gold to the cloth, made the process relatively quick and
easy to replicate a single title or design on multiple
copies of one title. The method, which is essentially the
same as that used today, consisted of a few simple steps: “glairing
the back, laying on the gold, assembling brass type in
the finisher’s pallet, heating the type at the finisher’s
stove, impressing the letters onto the gold by the force
of the finisher’s arm, and wiping off the surplus
gold with a rag” (Lehmann-Haupt 174).
The Book of Pearls (D. Appleton & Co.,
Gift book with gold stamping
on front, back, and spine
Gold stamping was
an ideal marketing tool for publishers and binders
alike. It added to the mass-produced books a touch
of luxury and an element of beauty. The designs
changed with the times and trends. They began very
simply in the 1820s and 1830s, usually only stamping
the title of the book on the spine
Through the 1850s
and 1860s, after gold was more readily available and
publishers’ bindings became more popular, the
gold-stamped designs were often rich and elaborate.
In the decades to follow, other methods of binding
decoration, such as black and color stamping and
printing overtook gold stamping as the preferred method
Crest on the Wave (1889)
In the 1880s and 1890s, the
popularity of ‘silver’ stamping rose as gold
stamping became less fashionable. The ‘silver’ stamping
was not authentic silver; rather, EDIT
ME LATER. GET SOME INFO, AND WRITE SOMETHING – PREFERABLY
SOMETHING ACCURATE AND FACTUAL.
Toward the turn of the century,
cloth bindings started to fall out of fashion in favor
of paper bindings and printed dust jackets. However,
the spectacular gold-stamped bindings of the final decades
of the 19th century and the first two decades of the
20th century are clear evidence that, at least for some,
the art of gold stamping did not lose its luster.
Allen, Sue and Charles Gullans. Decorated Cloth in America. Los Angeles:
UCLA Center for
17th- and 18th-Century Studies, 1994.
Diehl, Edith. Bookbinding: Its Background
and Technique. New York: Dover, 1980.
Lehmann-Haupt, Hellmut, ed. Bookbinding
in America. Portland, ME: Southworth-Anthoensen,