The Printed Book

by Harry G. Aldis, M.A. Cambridge at the University Press 1916

Book Bookbinding Part 6

This pair of panel stamps, with certain variations, was used by several different binders, and frequently bore the initials and mark of the binder. A few pictorial panels also occur, but these were much less common here than in France. The roll, at first a broad finely-cut design, soon deteriorated into a narrow meaningless ribbon, and the extinction of stamped work followed closely upon this debasement. All these decorations were stamped blind.

The introduction of gold tooling on leather began a new era in the decoration of bookbinding's. This art, brought from the East, was established in Italy towards the close of the fifteenth century, and soon spread into other countries. The patronage and taste of two celebrated collectors contributed largely to the fame of sixteenth-century Italian gilt bindings. These were Jean Grolier, a Frenchman resident in Italy, and Tommaso Maioli, an Italian, both of whom adopted a distinctive style. In Grolier bindings the chief feature is a framework of geometrical design formed of interlaced bands, frequently with arabesques as subsidiary ornament.

Maioli bindings are somewhat similar in character, but the framework is less dominant, and they are inclined to have a more graceful and easy appearance. The return of Grolier to his native country in 1529 gave an impetus to the development of the art in France, and under encouragement from a long succession of royal and distinguished collectors the French binders attained a height of excellence in the design and execution of gold-tooled work not surpassed in any other country. For a time but little is known of the binders themselves, and the various styles are connected with the possessors of the books-Francis I, Henry II, Catharine de' Medici, Diane de Poi tiers, and others rather than with those who designed and wrought them. But with Nicolas and Clovis Eve, who bound for Henry III (d. 1589) and his successors, there begins a line of distinguished craftsmen who impressed their personality upon successive styles. The name of Eve is associated with bindings covered with small compartments composed of palm leaves or laurel sprigs; and many books of this period, especially those bearing a coat of arms in the centre, are enriched with a semis of fleurs-de-lis or other small ornaments. The books of the great collector De Thou (d. 1617) are, however, for the most part in plain leather, with his arms, a chevron between three gad-flies, in the centre, either alone or accompanied by those of his wife.

This style, which was very widely imitated, continued in fashion until about 1660. Padeloup Ie jeune (d. 1758), the most famous of a family of noted binders, was celebrated for his elegant dentelle or lace borders; one of his patrons was Madame de Pompadour. The characteristic of the work of Le Gascon, the seventeenth-century binder, is the use of pointille tooling, in which the lines are broken up into dots, producing a particularly brilliant and delicate effect, especially on the red morocco which he mostly used.