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Yale Arts Library Receives Hand Bookbinding Collection

Yale University’s Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library has received a significant and generous gift of hand bookbindings from Sarah Valentine Nerber, daughter of bookbinder Mary Ellet Kendall Valentine and James A. Valentine. Ms. Nerber donated the collection in honor of her father, a member of the Yale Class of 1902.

Mary Ellet Kendall Valentine and her sister, Sarah Ellet Kendall, traveled to England in the early years of the twentieth century to study bookbinding with T. J. Cobden-Sanderson, proprietor of the Doves Press and Doves Bindery. Cobden-Sanderson founded the Doves Bindery in 1893 and it produced over one thousand bindings before closing in 1922. The bindings were mainly designed by Cobden-Sanderson and executed by professional binders. An early supporter of women’s rights, Cobden-Sanderson took a young American woman as his first pupil in 1895 at a time when it was unusual to find a woman working in the bookbinding trade. His political sympathies led him to train a series of female students and his only requirement was that they dedicate a year to learning the art and skill of bookbinding. The Kendall sisters trained with Cobden-Sanderson from 1907 to 1909 and on returning to America they opened the Golden Bindery in the Fine Arts Building in Chicago. Sadly, Sarah Kendall died a few years later. Her sister Mary Ellet Kendall married James A. Valentine in 1910 and continued to produce bindings into the 1920s.

The Valentine Collection consists of full leather bindings with gold stamped decorations that showcase both the technical and design skills of Mary Valentine and Sarah Kendall. The intricate patterns are influenced by their Arts and Crafts training, yet also show a tendency toward Art Deco and other modern influences. The collection includes bindings executed jointly by the sisters, as well as solo work by Mary Valentine. Many of the bound books were gifts to the sisters from Cobden-Sanderson and are inscribed. The 23 bindings in the collection are in exquisite condition and are the best examples of fine binding by a single artist in the Arts of the Book Collection, part of the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library Special Collections.

For more information on the Valentine Collection or the Haas Family Arts Library Special Collections, contact Jae Rossman or visit www.library.yale.edu/arts/specialcollections/