Less than 100 years ago books were considered to be a luxury item in many cases. Most were still hard bound, they were still fairly expensive, and they were usually owned by individuals that had enough expendable income to afford them. I’ve always been fascinated with book design. I think part of it stems from the fact that I studied print making in art school and was in love with the idea of making hand printed books. Today when I was going through the VADS website looking for inspiration I came across one of their collections that I hadn’t been through before, the “Netherlands Decorated Books Collection”, from the London College of Communication.
These book covers represent a period of time when book cover design was an opulent in a sense. I say that because we are talking about a period when paper book jackets, were not that common, and when they were used, the printing limitations of the period tended to limit the designer. Under the jacket though, there is a world of additional design, created from debossing, and gold foil. And on the inside of the book, there are detailed fine lithographs in black and white.
This series of books from the online VADS collection contain bindings in the Nieuwe Kunst and Art Nouveau styles created by contemporary artists working in the Netherlands such as Jozef Cantre, Jan Toroop, and P.A.H. Hofman’s designs.
P.A.H. Hofman was an important designer of stained glass and posters as well as book bindings. Hofman produced striking and accomplished binding designs which are characteristic of his own style, which was influenced by the Art Nouveau period. His works used decorative cloth bindings, a medium that had not survived the First World War in England.
In addition to Hofman, work by Jozef Cantre is heavily represented. Cantre was a Belgian artist, working in the Netherlands. In 1930 he returned to Belgium to take the position as Chair of Typography at Ecole des Beaux-Arts de la Cambre. His work prior to his return involved producing binding designs using woodcuts.