Book cloth is the traditional cover for a book, usually made from a natural woven 100% rayon fabric. Cloth is an excellent choice for its texture and classic look. The cloth can also be water resistant, the higher the plastic content, the higher the water resistance of the fabric.
Why Book Cloth?
Depending on your choice, a cloth book can be tailored to suit a smart library or a busy office. Cloth can be used on hardcover, half-bound, ring-bound and french groove notebooks. A cloth cover is usually made from cotton but can also be made from fabrics such as silk, canvas, velvet or linen.
A brief history of Book Cloth
According to ‘The Origins of Publishers’ Cloth Binding’ by John Carter, Bookbinding with cloth covers can be first traced back to 1821 by publisher William Pickering. Before cloth, the alternative was either Leather or board and paper. Cloth was purposed to be a medium between the two, offering an equally durable and luxurious option to leather, whilst being an affordable alternative to board. Bookbinding with cloth began in Germany and England and remained as the only european countries to do so until the 20th century.
Historically when printing was still done by hand (between 1455-1800) the cover and binding of a book, as well as the cost, was left as the duty of the buyer rather than the printer or bookseller, and so books were sold to the customer either in sheets or wrapped in paper, with the intention of this being a temporary measure until the book was bound. Development in technology meant that printing became cheaper and as books became more accessible to the public, the need for an affordable cover grew.
Carter states that the use of cloth as a wholesale binding material for books was ‘one of the most important and fruitful events in the whole history of book-structure and publishing practice’. However initially, leather was still favoured as a cover material, as book cloth was viewed the same as a paper cover, temporary and to be replaced. Contrastingly, it’s cost sold well, and thus became very popular, proving to the public to be durable over time. Printers and Publishers also found that cloth covers were much easier to print on, allowing full designs to be stamped on, proving cheaper than customising leather covers that were laborious and time consuming.
By 1859, book cloth had established itself.