Since the fifth century bindings have been used to hold together gatherings of paper or parchment. The early bindings were designed to preserve the information contained within the volume, making it easier to hold, to store and to transport. The spread of learning across Europe, the introduction of printing and rise of literacy increased the demand for books and influenced the development of the trade from a small medieval workshop to the mass-production of the twentieth century.
Rare books and special collections of the State Library of New South Wales was formed in 1962 although the base of the collections were formed in the nineteenth century through the first Australian Subscription Library and later the Free Public Library. The collection contains a range of material from medieval manuscripts to modern private press and artists’ books.