The Translantic Trade
Bookbinding in The Colonies
Tracing the history of an early book in Maryland often begins with its production in England, before its transport across the Atlantic. The scarcity of trained printers and binders, and the expense of importing materials and equipment, meant that most books were imported from England until after the American Revolution.
The blank paper for the pages of these books was commonly made in continental Europe and exported to England to be bound. The finished volumes were packed in trunks and barrels and shipped to the colonies for purchase by government clerks, merchants, accountants, and landowners.
The Stamp Act of 1765 and the trade disruptions caused by the American Revolution slowed the importation of books into the colonies and promoted growth of the domestic book industry. After the Revolutionary War, the growing presence of domestic paper mills, trained bookbinders, and quality bookbinding equipment led to the gradual decline of the importation of books.
By the 1800s, the government of Maryland was purchasing most of its blank court record books from binders in Annapolis and Baltimore. This exhibit explores the growth of the book importation business in Maryland, and take a behind-the scenes look into what can be learned from looking under the pages of a book.