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The National Library of Scotland has the pre-eminent collection of decorative bookbindings produced in Scotland during the last five centuries. Some were transferred to the new National Library in 1925 as part of the collections of the Advocates Library, but many have been purchased since in an attempt to document the development of binding styles in Scotland. Below are displayed a representative sample of bindings from the 18th century, together with a number of decorative endpapers from these books. It is intended to add further images in due course, showing other Scottish binding styles, in particular the work of the Edinburgh binder James Scott, and his son William, and also the creations of contemporary binders who feature in the National Library's annual Elizabeth A Soutar Bookbinding Competition.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, Scottish binders developed their own national styles, largely centred around two distinctive designs: the wheel and the herringbone. Both were established by 1725 and had entered their decline by the late 1770s, though the designs were occasionally used as late as the early 19th century. The herringbone was the earlier of the two styles to appear and it is likely it owes its existence to a desire to fill the rectangular centre-panels that had by this time become a feature of so many designs. The herringbone usually consists of a vertical stem placed in the centre of the cover with 'ribs' of paired tools placed symmetrically on either side. A variety of tools including fleurons, stars and 'fishscales' were used to adorn the space between the centre and the borders.