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French 19th-Century Bindings: the Collection of William A. Spencer

Fine French book bindings of dozens of titles, some in multiple volumes, principally from the last third of the 19th-century into the first decade of the 20th, offer a window into the original bequest by collector William Augustus Spencer (1855-1912) of more than 200 volumes.

Collection Contents

Front doublure. Digital ID: 491524 Front doublure. Digital ID: 491524

Collection History

These volumes, and others, by a total of twenty-eight different binders, date mostly from 1880-1910, and feature some of the greatest French bindings of that period. Other bindings from countries such as England, Germany, Spain, and the United States are included in the personal collection of the American book collector William Augustus Spencer. After his death aboard the Titanic, Spencer's collection came as a bequest to the Library in 1913. Most of these volumes were bound on Spencer's request, and include at least one binding designed by him. They represent the work of some of the finest French binders of his time, including Canape, Capé, Chambolle-Duru, Gruel, Joly, Lortic, Mercier and Marius Michel.


The donation of this collection, along with an endowment, formed the basis for the Spencer Collection. Its mission is to acquire "the finest illustrated books that can be procured, of any country and in any language, bound in handsome bindings...containing the original designs, drawings or paintings made by the illustrator," and has grown into a diverse collection, ranging from medieval illuminated manuscripts and Japanese scrolls to contemporary livres d'artistes.

Related Resources

NYPL. The Spencer Collection of Modern Book Bindings. (1914)

Library Division(s)

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