Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books
A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology

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Aitken, Robert ( 1735-1802 )

One of a group of Scottish craftsmen in the bookbinding trade who immigrated to America in the years immediately before the Revolutionary War. Aitken appeared in Philadelphia in 1769, as a bookseller. He returned to Scotland that same year, apparently to learn bookbinding, because upon his return two years later he advertised himself as both bookbinder and bookseller. After 1773 he began to print books as well, and, in 1782, published the "Aitken Bible," the first complete Bible in English to be published on the North American continent.

Aitken produced hundreds of bookbindings ranging in style from paper wrappers (both blue and marbled) to more or less richly gilt leather bindings. His work included blue paper boards, raised cords as well as flat spines, both plain and marbled endpapers, and bindings in full calf- or sheepskin with red title labels and gilt bands across the spines. Although Aitken produced scores of "plain" bindings, he was also capable of a binding style that was rich and luxurious in its gold tooling, especially for American bookbinding of that time. He was, in general, an imaginative and diverse bookbinder, although he was not known for his exactness and polish in finishing, nor was he particularly artistic. Because Aitkin was also an engraver, it has been suggested that he may have cut his own finishing tools, possible in imitation of Scottish designs. (45 , 200 , 347 )




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