Up to the early nineteenth century books were hand-bound, sometimes using precious metals such as gold or silver and costly materials, including jewels, to cover valuable books and manuscripts. Book bindings had existed as a functional device for hundreds of years, both to protect the pages and also as an elaborate decorative element, to reflect the value of the contents.
The process of bookbinding began to change with the introduction of mechanical bookbinding techniques in the 1820s. The availability of cheaper materials such as cloth and paper and the faster industrialised process of mechanically-produced paper and steam-powered presses gave rise to a greater volume of books at a lower cost per book. Hand-binding began to wane as a consequence.