Brass Dies from Harcourt Bindery

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harcourt bindery5Once a book is bound, the spine and covers are often decorated with stamped patterns using hand tools and brass dies. This is called tooling or finishing. To save the cost of making new dies for every book, generic dies with lines, curves, and patterns are combined to form an endless variety of designs. Firestone Library was fortunate to have acquired a collection of these brass dies in the 1980s from the Harcourt Bindery of Boston, Massachusetts. Below is an example of blind stamping, using the  brass dies without color to leave an embossed pattern.

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harcourt bindery7Samuel B. Ellenport, An Essay on the Development & Usage of Brass Plate dies: including a catalogue raisonné from the collection of the Harcourt Bindery (Boston, Mass.: Harcourt Bindery, 1980). “Five hundred copies … printed on Mohawk Superfine by The Heron Press … Numbers 1-10 are signed by the author and bound in full morocco; 11-35 are signed by the author and bound in half-morocco; remaining numbered copies are bound in linen over boards … “—Colophon. Graphic Arts copy is no. 161. Graphic Arts: Reference Collection (GARF) Oversize Z272 .E45 1980q

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