You can judge a book by its cover : a brief survey of materials [Mowery, John Franklin]

Bound in blind-tooled black goatskin; spine has raised bands, stamped and lettered in gold; brass outer covers have seven perforated slots; gray suede doublures; gold and black headbands; in a drop-spine box lined with gray suede.

Born in Lake Charles, Louisiana in 1953, Mowery is the son of two librarians. He got his first taste of bookbinding working for his father at the library of Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, dusting books and mending them with pressure sensitive tape and self-adhesive book cloth. He did such a good job that it was suggested that he become a book binder. After looking for a place to train in the United States he turned to Europe where he was offered a place to study in the Staatliche Hochschule für bildende Kunste in Hamburg, Germany under the guidance of Professor Kurt Londenberg. He was awarded as an Ober Meister the level of Master Bookbinder. He worked as a student in the conservation department of the University Library in Hamburg and after that training at the Art School he went to the Acadamie of Art in Vienna, Austria to train for a year and a half as a paper conservator, under Otto Wächter. He spent six months working as a book conservator in Florence, Italy at the Bibliothek Nationale before returning to the United States. His first job was at the Huntington Library in California. Then in August of 1977 he became the head of Conservation at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C., a position he still holds. His bindings have been on display in exhibitions around the world, most notably was his first one man show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 1982. For nearly ten years he was President of the professional Guild of Book Workers. He currently runs a private practice as a paper conservator.


“I feel that a book can be considered the ultimate art form since it combines the art of literature, typography and illustrations within a binding. The binding itself can be appreciated as a unique form, yet it is a complement to the other arts. My training taught me to view the binding as the final step in the artistic process. The writer creates the text, the printer is responsible for the typography, and the artist graphically portrays the printed word. It is the task of the binder to unify and enhance these three elements. He must not attempt to surpass or overwhelm any of the parts, but must make his binding a vehicle of balance and unity while maintaining his own artistic integrity. It is with this in mind that I chose to use leather and brass as the materials of my book, as both have been used traditionally on bindings for centuries. The solid brass second covers with the seven perforated slots were derived from the seven gold lines of the title page. These seven lines were done in blind on the black goatskin (a natural color choice to reflect the black woodcut illustrations) of the primary covers. The headbands were embroidered in gold and black. The doublures are in gray suede, which also lines the clamshell box.”