The Printed Book

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

Book Bookbinding Part 7

Derome Ie jeune (d. ab. 1788) followed in the footsteps of Padeloup and likewise gained fame by the beauty of his dentelle borders, but the crime of sawn backs and cropped margins has sullied his reputation as a true craftsman. Bookbinding, in common with other arts, suffered eclipse in the upheaval of the Revolution; but in the nineteenth century the work of Thouvenin, Trautz, Duru, and others restored the tradition of finished workmanship, though not always accompanied by the inspiration of originality.

The first binder in England to practice gold tooling appears to have been Thomas Berthelet, printer and stationer to Henry VIII. In an extant bill for books bound for the King by Berthelet in the years 1541-3 are instances of this new style: 'a New Testament in latyne and a psalter englisshe andl atyne bounde back to back in white leather gorgeously gilded on the leather,' others were 'bound after the Venecian fashion,' or 'covered with purple velvet and written bowtie with gold. English binders derived from the continent not only the art of gold tooling, but took also their inspiration from the same source, and most English gilt bindings of the sixteenth century were either executed by foreign workmen or copied from foreign models. The leather used in England was nearly always brown calf or sheep; morocco, though known in France, was rarely employed in this country before the seventeenth century. A favorite style of ornamentation consisted of heavily gilt centre and corner pieces, with the rest of the side either left plain or powdered with, a small ornament. Many of the books bound for Archbishop Parker, who established a binder in his own house, were gilt in this fashion. Queen Elizabeth, a great lover of fine books, had a special liking for embroidered bindings and for books bound in velvet with gold or silver mountings; some of the former are said to have been worked by the Queen herself. These embroidered bindings, worked in colored silks and enriched with gold and silver thread, were a specially English production. James I also had a taste for velvet bindings, but his more characteristic style is leather with the royal arms in the centre of a diaper of fteurs-de-lis or other small ornaments. At this time good work was being done both at Oxford and at Cambridge; and in his singular community at Little Gidding Nicholas Ferrar 'entertained a Cambridge bookbinder's daughter that bound rarely to show them that piece of skill.' This style is associated with the name of Samuel Mearne binder to Charles II and the best-known English craftsman of the century.

Other fashions included the fan style, consisting of a circular fan-like ornament in the centre with similar sections in the corners; imitations of Le Gascon; and mosaic bindings of inlaid leather. The second half of the seventeenth century produced the distinctively English style known as cottage binding, in which the frame-work at top and bottom of the design bears some resemblance to a low gable.