Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Kelliegram-Telegram To Rare Book Lovers: Fine Binding Alert

by Stephen J. Gertz

TRISTRAM, W. Outram. Coaching Days and Coaching Ways.
London: Macmillan and Co., 1888. First edition.

I have, over the last few years, had a clutch of bindings with handsome and elaborately onlaid and inlaid pictorial work on their covers, each an example of custom bindings by Kelly & Sons, in the binding style known as "Kelliegram."

Front cover, detail.
The illustration reproduces that on
page 171, "Charging a Snowdrift."

Kelliegram bindings, easily identified as genuine by a gilt signature stamped to the rear board's lower turn-in, are highly collectible. They are, indeed, exclusively collected by some fans, much as the vellucent bindings of Cedric Chivers are coveted for the unusual beauty of their execution.

KINGSLEY, Charles. The Water-Babies.
London: Macmillan & Co., 1888.
New Edition. With 100 illustrations by Linley Sambourne.

Front cover, detail.

[The beautifully inlaid and colorful] "Kelliegram bindings were one of many innovations of the English commercial binding firm of Kelly & Sons. The Kelly family had one of the longest connections in the history of the binding trade in London, having been founded in 1770 by John Kellie, as the name was then spelled. The binding firm was carried on by successive members of the family into the 1930s. William Henry Kelly significantly developed the company in the first half of the nineteenth century, followed by William Henry, Jr., Henry, and Hubert Kelly, who took control in 1892, taking the firm into the twentieth century...

CRUIKSHANK, Geo. (Illustr.). MAYHEW, Brothers (eds.).
The Greatest Plague in Life; or The Adventures of a Lady
in Search of a Good Servant.
London: David Bogue, n.d. [1847]. First edition.

"…The development [during the 1880s] that came to be known as Kelliegram was one of the bindery's most notable, and the popularity continues today as demonstrated by the prices Kelliegram bindings command at auction and in the rare book trade" (Dooley, John. Kelliegram Bindings).

HUGHES, William R. A Week's Tramp in Dickens-Land.
London: Chapman & Hall, 1891. First edition.
Bound by Kelly & Sons for Charles E. Lauriat of Boston.

As often as not, an illustration found within the book was reproduced on the cover with leather onlays (a thin piece of leather glued on top of another piece of leather) or inlays (a thicker piece of leather glued next to another).

HUGHES, William R. A Week's Tramp in Dickens-Land.
London: Chapman & Hall, 1891. First edition.
Another copy.
Front cover, detail.

The Kelliegram technique was used by other famous English binders including Riviere & Son, Bayntun, etc.

STOWE, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom's Cabin; Of, Negro Life
in the Slave States of America. London: Nathaniel Cook, 1853.
Second U.K. illustrated edition.

"Messrs Kelly and Sons, the well-known bookbinders, of 7, Water Street, Arundel Street, Strand, W.C., where they have been established for very many years, have just shown us some admirable specimens of new bindings, which evidence, in a remarkable degree, the tasteful design and skilled workmanship which characterize their productions…

INGOLDSBY, Thomas (pseud. of Richard Harris Barham).
The Ingoldsby Legends. Or, Mirth and Marvels.
London: Richard Bentley, 1864. Later edition.

"...A most choice and luxurious volume which it is a pleasure to look at and handle…a sort of tour-de-force in bookbinding…It is, indeed, wonderful to note the artistic perfection of the workmanship…perfect bookbinding…" (The Bookseller, June 3, 1897). 

All images courtesy of David Brass Rare Books, with our thanks.

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