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Article: “Bookbinding in 18th Century Wales”

Printer’s device from 1760 Welsh almanac published by John Prys.

While researching, I recently came across reference to “Bookbinding in 18th Century Wales,” by Eiluned Rees (Journal of the Welsh Bibliographical Society 12.1 [1983/84]: 51-66; link). As Providence would have it, the article is available online for free!

Of particular note:

  • Various gentlemen took on bookbinding as a bit of a hobby (p. 59).
  • He also mentions the phenomenon of “itinerant binders” that would make ‘house calls’ (or is it ‘estate calls’?) to gentry in need of upkeep for their personal libraries (p. 60).
  • Various clergymen and lay ministers were also bookbinders: “Richard Tibbott was a Methodist exhorter and Congregational minister and he spent six weeks in 1745 with John Richard of Llansamet learning the art of bookbinding. John Richard was another Methodist exhorter, as was John Evans (1723-1817) who extended his range of activities to weaving, mining and bookbinding. Williams Hughes (1761-1826), a Congregational minister at Dinas Mawddwy, taught bookbinding to William Howell of Machynlleth, who subsequently became a cobbler/bookbinder.” (p. 61).

I would love to find more information on these kinds of things. The idea of bookbinding as a hobby and bookbinding being something that clergy/ministers would pursue is intriguing for me as a theologically trained layperson. The concept of “itinerant bookbinding” is interesting. What would their toolset look like? What are the essentials that they would take with them for travel? Were such itinerant binders employed in the colonies or on the Continent?

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