Today's post concludes a discussion of seventeenth-century English bindings that I began a few weeks ago. As in my previous post, these entries offer representative examples of decorative styles commonly found on English bindings of the seventeenth century. David Pearson's English Bookbinding Styles, 1450-1800 (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press and British Library, 2005) and Stuart Bennett's Trade Bookbinding in the British Isles, 1660-1800 (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press and British Library, 2004) are essential companion volumes for anyone interested in the subject.
Richard Allestree, The Gentleman’s Calling.
London: Printed by R. Norton for Robert Pawlet, 1676
8vo; contemporary calf binding, central frame formed from triple fillets in blind, outer frame from double fillets in blind; outer corners of central frame decorated with small tools in blind; late seventeenth century
William Fleetwood, Chronicon preciosum
London: Printed for Charles Harper, 1707
Contemporary paneled calf, decorated in blind with small tools
The two books illustrated above exemplify the typical binding style of the Restoration and early eighteenth century, i.e. the "paneled" binding. This decorative concept became very popular in the last quarter of the seventeenth century, growing directly out of the minimalist design patterns used from 1600-1650. The multiple "panels" of a "paneled binding" are formed by layered frames made by blind fillets. It was common for binders to decorate the corners of these panels with small tools.
The paneled design on the binding shown below adopts an even simpler form. The multi-tonal effect was created by treating parts of the leather with acid or ink, while the decorated lines were made by a "dog-tooth" tool in blind. An early owner inscribed the title page "Anne Jones her book February 20th, 1695/6" in a fine hand.
|detail of panel design|
|detail of ms note on upper cover|
|title page inscription|
|title page inscription, detail|
Simon Patrick, The Parable of the Pilgrim
London: Printed for Richard Chiswell, 1687
4to; contemporary paneled calf binding, simply decorated in blind with dog-tooth rolls
Here is another example of a multi-tonal paneled calf binding from the period:
Basil Kennett, Romae antiquae notitia: or, the antiquities of Rome
London: Printed for T. Child and R. Knaplock, 1717
8vo; contemporary calf [only lower cover survives in original binding], triple-paneled style decorated in blind with small tools and simple rolls; outermost and innermost panels treated to create multi-tonal effect; early eighteenth century
And a final paneled binding from the early eighteenth century (the job executed in a rather slapdash manner):
James Welwood, Memoirs of the most material transactions in England for the last hundred years
London: Printed by J.D. for Tom Goodwin, 1718
contemporary paneled calf, crudely (i.e. asymmetrically) decorated in blind with fillets, simple rolls, and small tools; early eighteenth century
Another popular decorative style for bindings of this period looks nearly identical to the plain bindings of the early seventeenth century (i.e. those decorated with a frame of fillets only), except it features a single decorated roll running parallel to the spine (see below).
|detail of roll (1)|
|detail of roll (2)|
|title in ms on foreedge: "Secret His[tory] White Hall"|
David Jones, The secret history of White-hall
London: Printed by R. Baldwin, 1697
8vo; contemporary plain calf binding; outer frame formed by double fillets in blind, with decorated roll (c. 1645-1715) running parallel to spine; late-seventeenth-century/early-eighteenth century; title in ms on fore-edgeThe last two bindings on display, as might be ascertained by their bright colors, illustrate the higher end (but by no means the highest end) of the period's decorative styles. The first item is a copy of Richard Allestree's The Ladies Calling (1705) handsomely bound in red morocco and adorned with gilt tooling; a manuscript poem "On New Year's Day" affixed to the front pastedown indicates the book was a holiday gift. In fact, Allestree's The Ladies Calling was extremely popular at this time (as were all of Allestree's devotional works), and its readers tended to spend the extra money to adorn it with a deluxe binding. Many extant copies of The Ladies Calling survive in more expensive bindings, which may have been made with goatskin, dyed in bright colors, and/or decorated with gilt tooling.
As Stuart Bennett has argued persuasively in Trade Bookbinding in the British Isles, these bindings were not invariably bespoke, i.e. not necessarily commissioned by each individual book purchaser. Booksellers—especially those who owned shops while also participating in the wholesale trade as publishers—purchased much of the contemporary binding work seen on surviving books from this period (see Bennett for an important discussion of trade and publisher's bindings). The deluxe examples shown below would have been reproduced for multiple copies of the same book—in this case The Ladies Calling—primarily so that a bookseller could make the books (and his shop) more aesthetically pleasing to customers.
Richard Allestree, The Ladies Calling
Oxford: Printed at the Theatre, 1705
8vo; contemporary red morocco, triple-paneled style decorated with gilt fillets and small tools
One more paneled binding decorated in gilt, similar in style to the Allestree but less deluxe (calf instead of goatskin).
John Selden, Table Talk
London: Printed for Jacob Tonson and Awnsham and John Churchill, 1696
8vo; contemporary paneled calf decorated with gilt fleurons and corner tools