The Mosher Books in Fine Bindings

One of the ways a collector or binder pays tribute to an author or publisher is to have his work bound in a luxurious binding. Such tribute was paid the Mosher Books time and again. In his 1898 catalogue Mosher himself notes,

It may not be inappropriate, or devoid of interest, to mention the fact that American and foreign binders have chosen many of these books whereon to lavish their skill. In America, Mr. Otto Zahn, the Misses Nordhoff and Buckley; in London, Miss Prideaux and the Guild of women Binders have re- clothed in exquisite bindings not a few of the special copies of Mr. Mosher’s editions.

A 1906 exhibition at the Grolier Club (of which Mosher was a member) entitled “An Exhibition of Some [138] of the Latest Artistic Bindings Done at the Club Bindery” included eight Mosher imprints—more than any other American publisher represented at the show. A few of the members kept the Club Bindery busy, among them William Henry Poor. Poor owned many Mosher books (including eighteen in Club Bindings), most of them copies from very limited editions, printed on pure Roman vellum.1

Otto Zahn’s monograph On Art Binding was prepared for the 1904 St. Louis Exposition, where his Toof and Company bindings were on display at the Fine Arts Building. Included in that monograph were twelve reproductions of the company’s finest work. In the company of bindings of original manuscripts by Tennyson, Dickens, and Napoleon were two Kelmscott books and two of “Thomas B. Mosher’s beautiful publications.”

Additionally, fine bindings by Zaehnsdorf, Sangorski and Sutcliffe, and Donnelley all provided elegant dress for the Mosher books. Various job binders entered the picture, and many Mosher books were bound by English and American binders for the retail market. Such firms as Boston’s Rose Bindery and J. W. Meyers, Chicago’s Monastery Hill Bindery, and New York’s McDonald’s Bindery provided leather-bound Moshers for Brentano’s, Putnam’s and the Lord and Taylor Bookshops, especially for the holiday seasons.

  1. GUILD OF WOMEN BINDERS. RUBÁIYÁT OF OMAR KHAYYÁM, Rendered into English Verse by Edward FitzGerald. Portland, Maine, Thomas B. Mosher, MDCCCXCVII.
    180 mm z 100 mm, 123 pp., Old World 1, Hatch 52, Fourth Edition.

    Full light-brown pigskin with illustrated tooling in relief: Omar and his beloved on the front cover and grape vines on the back; gilt-lined sum-ins and marbled endpapers. All page edges green.

    “The Guild of Women Binders” is incised at the bottom of the inside front cover; in addition, the Guild’s stamp is affixed on the last free end leaf. The actual bindery work is that of Miss Gaskell.

    The profession of bookbinding was virtually closed to women in England. Their only alternative was to join Arts and Crafts workshops. The success of an 1897 exhibition of work from these workshops encouraged these women to organize. A year later, several of these women established the Guild of Women Binders, where women could learn and practice their craft in a congenial environment, and through which they could sell their work.

    Mosher’s unauthorized publication of this translation in 1895 drew the ire of Andrew Lang, who complained bitterly of Mosher’s piracy. Strouse reports that the two met in London at a later date and the unrepentant Mosher told Lang, “You don’t know America. Our little tiff has sold twice as many of your books and mine as all your publishers ever did for you.” According to Strouse, they parted as friends.2

  2. TOOF AND COMPANY. UNDERNEATH THE BOUGH A BOOK OF VERSES, Michael Field [Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper]. Portland, Maine, Thomas B. Mosher, Mdcccxcviij.
    180 mm x 100 mm, 101 pp., Old World 14, Hatch 66. Copy number 5 of 100 on Japan vellum.

    Full green, highly polished crushed morocco with gilt Art Nouveau flower and vine motif, including dragonflies on the front cover and on the compartments of the spine. Signed by Otto Zahn. Zahn, who studied the art of bookbinding in Europe, was the owner of Toof and Company, which was located in Memphis, Tennessee.

    Vol. I, 175 mm x 225 mm, 21 I pp., Quarto 7, Hatch 157.
    Vol. II, 175 mm x 225 mm, 209 pp., Quarto 8, Hatch 158. Each is copy number 3 of 4 printed on pure Roman vellum and signed by the publisher.

    Full mauve morocco with Art Nouveau gilt tooled covers of roses and vines. Gilt-tooled inner dentelles and silk doublures. Illustrated as binding eight in Otto Zahn’s monograph On Art Binding, 1904.

  4. ZAEHNSDORF. XVII DESIGNS TO THORNTON’S VIRGIL, William Blake. Portland, Maine, Thomas B. Mosher, MDCCCXCIX.
    260 mm x 165 mm, 19 leaves, 58 pp., Miscellaneous 9, Hatch 110. 450 copies were printed on Van Gelder paper and 25 on Japan vellum.

    Full brown crushed morocco with the special stamp reserved for their special bindings. Classical gilt tooling around the perimeter of the covers, gilt tooling across the spine’s raised bands, with floral motifs used in the compartments. Gilt inner dentelles with silk endpapers. Zaehnsdorf was located in London.

    The woodcut vignettes for the headbands and tailpieces are by Selwyn Image and appeared in The Century Guild’s Hobby Horse.

  5. (UNKNOWN BINDER). THE POEMS OF MASTER FRANCOIS VILLON OF PARIS Translated by John Paine. Portland, Maine, Thomas B. Mosher MDCCCC.
    190 mm x 145 mm, 261 pp., Reprint of Privately Printed Books 6, Hatch 153. 725 copies were printed on Van Gelder paper, 25 numbered copies on Japan vellum, and 4 copies, of which this is number 2, signed and numbered on pure Roman vellum.

    Bound in full creamy stiff vellum in the Arts and Crafts style with green silk ties laced through the binding and gilt titling on the spine. This copy is from the library of William Henry Poor and has his leather bookplate. Also included with this book is the eight-page “Omitted Lines” privately printed on pure Roman vellum.3

  6. R. R. DONNELLEY. SONGS BEFORE SUNRISE, Algernon Charles Swinburne. Portland, Maine, Thomas B. Mosher MDCCCCI.
    175 mm x 225 mm, 285 pp. 450 copies were printed on Van Gelder paper and 25 copies, signed and numbered, on Japan vellum, of which this is number 4.

    Full blue morocco with gilt tooling in Jansenist style, double gilt fillets around each cover, raised bands and gilt tooling on spine. In matching slipcase. Donnelley, located in Chicago, was also the largest printing company in the Midwest.

  7. BAMBURGH. RUBÁIYÁT OF OMAR KHAYYÁM Translated by Edward FitzGerald. Portland, Maine, Thomas B. Mosher, Mdccccxj.
    180 mm x 100 mm, 115 pp., Old World 1, Hatch 546. Tenth Edition.

    The covers and spine have pochoir decorations in red, blue, maroon, and yellow in the Moorish style. The artist, William Cushing Bamburgh, was an illuminator who worked for Frederick H. Hitchcock’s Grafton Press and for the private press of Robert Grier Cook, both in New York City.

  8. SANGORSKI AND SUTCLIFFE. SALOME A TRAGEDY IN ONE ACT Translated from the French of Oscar Wilde by Alfred Bruce Douglas. Portland, Maine, Thomas B. Mosher, MDCCCCXI.
    195 mm x 140 mm, 75 pp., Miscellaneous 51, Hatch 530.

    Full red morocco, by Sangorski and Sutcliffe of London in Arts and Crafts style, with five darts wrapping around the spine onto the covers and ending in a triple leaf design; gilt fillet around the perimeter of the covers with three dots in each comer, gilt on spine. For more information on this title see entry 19.

  1. Henry W. Poor. Catalogue of the Library of Henry W. Poor, Parts l-V, New York, The Anderson Auction Co., 1908-1909.
  2. Strouse, op. cit., p. 25.
  3. Benton L. Hatch, A Check List of the Publications of Thomas B. Mosher of Portland Maine, MDCCCXCI-MDCCCCXXIII, Amherst, The University of Massachusetts, 1966, p. 147, entry 644; also see Chapter 10, “Addenda and Corrigenda.”