Guild of Women Binders: A Social Movement in Printing History


Tied inextricably to the Arts and Crafts Movement and to the ideals of William Morris and associates, Frank Karslake, an antiquarian bookseller from London and financial supporter of the Hampstead Bindery, promoted an exalted platform upon which the bookbinding craft of women shined. In 1897, Frank Karslake attended the Victorian Era Exhibition at the Diamond Jubilee honoring the Queen. Karslake keenly observed the unique binding work of Annie S. MacDonald, her pupils, and other women binders, and he discerned the inherent worth in the women’s approach to binding. The binding work of the women eschewed the degradative tendencies recognized by Morris, and favored design, embroidery, painting, and modelled leatherwork

While the Guild of Women Binders originally grew from Ruskinian and Morrisian principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement, the Guild brought to the Movement a presence of empowerment for women - the opportunity for women binders to excel in their craft, to have independent and gainful employment with a living wage, and to have a creative outlet to express individual artistry. Interest in bookbindery by women was ubiquitous across all demographics in terms of location and of economic and social class.