Roger Payne Papers

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MSS 440, 944
  • Dates of Creation
      18th Century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      2 items
  • Location
      Collection available at John Rylands Library, Deansgate.

Scope and Content

The collection comprises bills for binding and photostats of the collection now in the Pierpont Morgan Library

Administrative / Biographical History

Roger Payne (bap. 1738, d. 1797), bookbinder, took over his father's binding business after his death in May 1759, working both in Eton and later in London. Roger Payne's bills and letters frequently describe in some detail the work carried out, and their tone is on the whole one of self-satisfaction and pride in his craftsmanship, as well as a justification for his prices. From these it is clear that he himself did some repair work, as well as doing both the forwarding and the finishing, and that, contrary to popular belief, he did not cut his own tools. He did, however, pay some attention to matching the tool design with the subject of the book in question. He also worked according to a pattern which, at least in some cases, was either specified or approved by the future owner.

His typical and best-known bindings were usually in brown russia; red, blue, or green straight-grain morocco; or smooth olive morocco, frequently with purple or brown end-leaves and tall green headbands. Many have leather joints and doublures consisting of a leather frame and a paper centre panel. He used mainly small, naturalistic tools and most of the typical bindings of the 1790s have very elaborately tooled spines, frequently with two or three panels lettered, and the date of printing nearly always in Roman numerals. He was an excellent craftsman and, notwithstanding his reputation for a fondness for strong drink and his self-confessed ill health, his finishing was first rate.

Source: Mirjam M. Foot, 'Payne, Roger (bap. 1738, d. 1797)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan and Jo Klett, project archivists, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Roger Payne.

Related Material

The John Rylands Library holds the largest extant collection of bindings by Roger Payne, particularly in the Spencer and Christie book collections.