Publishers’ Bindings through the Decades:


Gardening for the South; or, How to Grow Vegetables and Fruits
(O. Judd, 1868)

Certainly the most significant series of historical events during the 1860s is the American Civil War. South Carolina seceded from the Union following the election of President Abraham Lincoln in December of 1860, and other southern states soon followed. In February of 1861, the Confederate States of America formed and elected Jefferson Davis as its president. An attack on Fort Sumter in April of 1861 began a war between the North and South that would last until May of 1865. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, announcing, "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious areas "are, and henceforward shall be free." Lincoln was assassinated a month before the war's official end.

Reconstruction and the gradual readmittance of Confederate states into the Union lasted until 1870. Although slavery had ended, decades of segregation and racial injustice had only begun, including the origination of the Ku Klux Klan. Another type of racial strife began in the west, as miners poured into land set aside for Native Americans following the discovery of gold in Bannack, Montana, and South Pass City, Wyoming. The lawlessness that prevailed during these gold rushes contributed to the romantic image of the Wild West.


Little Women
(Roberts Brothers, 1869)

Book bindings of the period reflect the tension in America. Covers and endpapers tended to be sober colors, and little ornamentation was used. Gold stamping generally was restricted to the title on the spine or a small picture on the front. Books that were published in the South during the Civil War are known in the book trade as Confederate Imprints. Most remarkable are the few books that were bound in wallpaper scraps, indicative of the overwhelming lack of resources in the South during the war. This example of Hardee's Rifle and Infantry Tactics, published by S. H. Goetzel of Mobile, Alabama, is bound in cream and brown wallpaper.

Despite the restraint shown in book binding, authors of the 1860s produced a number of important books. Among the most popular titles were Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and Mary Mapes Dodge's Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates. Journalist Samuel Clemens first found fame as author Mark Twain with the publication of The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches and The Innocents Abroad. Also during this decade, Lewis Carroll's book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland made its American debut, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published the famous poem "Paul Revere's Ride."

Music of the Civil War period tended to be somber and often war-related, such as "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," and "Dixie." Entertainment grew more cheerful after the war, when the musical-comedy theatrical genre burlesque was born. Minstrelsy experienced a shift as black troupes–as opposed to white actors performing in black-face–began touring the country.

View all books from 1860-1869 in PBO database

Decades Gallery Home | 1815-29 | 1830-39 | 1840-49 | 1850-59
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Allen, Sue. Decorated Cloth in America: Publisher’s Bindings, 1840-1910. Los Angeles: UCLA, Center for 17th- and 18th-Century Studies, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, 1994.

American Cultural History, Kingwood College,

American Studies: Literature On-line Textbook,

Diehl, Edith. Bookbinding: Its Background and Technique. New York: Dover, 1980.

Lehmann-Haupt, Hellmut, ed. Bookbinding in America. Portland, ME: Southworth-Anthoensen, 1941.

Museum of Westward Expansion, National Park Service,

Williams, T. Harry, and the editors of Life. The Union Sundered, 1849-1865, vol. 5 in The Life History of the United States. New York: Time Inc., 1963.

Williams, T. Harry, and the editors of Life. The Union Restored, 1861-1876, vol. 6 in The Life History of the United States. New York: Time Inc., 1963.

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