Constance Karslake

Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830–1894).
Goblin Market, by Christina Rossetti, Illustrated by Laurence Housman.
London: Macmillan, 1893. (10705)

The Guild of Women-Binders was founded in 1898 by the London bookseller Frank Karslake (1851–1920). It operated until 1904 as an informal consortium of binders from various women’s craft organizations. Because members of the Guild of Women-Binders were generally untrained in traditional bookbinding design, they tended to produce remarkably innovative bindings, often with multi-colored leather inlays that freely adapted the Art Nouveau style.

The Guild’s outstanding member was Constance Karslake (1880–ca. 1940), the daughter of Frank Karslake. Largely self-taught in binding techniques, at the age of twenty she exhibited several bindings at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris. Many of her works were illustrated in The Bindings of To-Morrow. A Record of the Work of the Guild of Women-Binders and of the Hampstead Bindery (1902). Her bindings also appeared at exhibitions in London and sales at Sotheby’s. Although her binding style gradually fell out of favor, Karslake continued to oversee a London bindery into the 1930s. The exhibited binding, bearing the gold-tooled phrase “Guild of Women-Binders” inside the front cover, was also signed in ink on the front endpaper, “Constance Karslake, binder.”

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