Wooden boards, raised bands, end-leaves, vellum, blind-stamped, and fillets are all part of the language of the bookbinder. The exhibition From Pigskin to Paper: The Art and Craft of Bookbinding aims to decode the jargon used by bookbinders, and showcase the creative ‘art and craft' skills evident in all aspects of the binding process, from forwarding (construction) to finishing (decoration).

There is an increasing amount of scholarly work done on the binders who create the outer garments that contain (and protect) the text-block. There is also more intensive work done examining the structural components of bindings, especially by conservators. Whether they are hand-bound calfskin, pigskin, or vellum examples from the hand-press period (and thereby unique objects), or machine-made mass-produced ones from the early 19th century, bindings do provide information on the book trade - how books were sold, how they were to be used, what were the prevailing fashions, what tools the binder owned, and in cases, the owner's taste and standing. Indeed, as book historian David Pearson claims: ‘all historic bindings are potentially interesting, however fine (or not) they look'.

To highlight some of forwarding and finishing processes, the various styles and fashions of binding through the ages, and to help decode the jargon, a cross-section of bindings are on display. They range from the earliest English binding in New Zealand (dated 1482), 16th century European samples, and 19th century publisher's bindings, to works by English binders Sangorski & Sutcliffe, art nouveau samples, and bindings by local Dunedin binders.

Exhibition poster (303K in PDF format)

Exhibition handlist (300K in PDF format)