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Reading Early Printed Books

A Guide to the Book as Artifact

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Created by Melinda Hayes, Rare Books Librarian, Special Collections

Bindings of Early Printed Books

 Early printed books were bound in various materials, using distinct methods of decoration and titling.

Blind-tooled pigskin binding of Johannes Thomas Freig's Quaestiones eōthina'i ka'i deilina'i  (Basel: printed by Sebastian Henricpetri, 1576) BJ211 .F74 1576

Binding Terms & Definitions

There are several types of binding terms to describe bindings for early printed books. Bindings for books printed before 1800 were made by hand from natural materials, such as leather, cloth, and paper. The terms used in Special Collections to describe binding structures are from the Rare Books & Manuscripts Section Binding Thesaurus.

Term types include:

Search terms within each type used at USC can be found in the box to the left.

Binding search terms at USC

Follow the links to find books using the terms below. Click on the "Examples" link to see visual examples of each term.

Ancillary structures

Binders' evidence

Categories of bindings

Fastenings, Attachments

Materials and treatment






Types of binding structure