Within the collection of the Ingalls Library, there are thousands of books bound in the traditional manner, used for hundreds of years, with a text block sewn or glued together and attached to a soft or hard cover. New technologies in the 20th century have produced books bound in thoroughly untraditional ways.
The evolution of the artist's book (the artist's creation in the form of a book) has been very influential on book binding in its quest to follow the notion that the book can be manipulated into whatever the creative process dictates. Over the last few decades this trend has been picked up increasingly by publishers and has become especially popular in fine arts publishing. The examples shown are a combination of artists' books, exhibition catalogs, museum catalogs and fine arts publications.
The materials used throughout the centuries to cover a binding included leather, wood, paper, parchment, textiles, metals, ivory, tortoiseshell, Perspex and cloth, with leather, parchment, paper and cloth used most often. Some decorative techniques included use of precious metals, enameling, embroidery or impressing leather. Current bindings use many of the same materials combined in different manners while others introduce new and exotic materials such as feathers.
Additional changes which work to reveal innovative ways to express the author's and/or artist's individualism include the use of shape, the content of the book reflected on the exterior and/or the absence of an exterior binding altogether.