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BIBLIOPEGIA:

The development of leather hand book binding design, a less than scholarly review of the history of hand leather bookbinding designs as exemplified by creations from antiquity -A History of Bookbinding Decoration 15th to 21st Century Exemplified by the Old Masters & Retrospectives Executed by the atelier of Herb Weitz
Click here to see our slide show on the rebinding of one book by hand in the time honored tradition!

With a very little history of the evolution of graphic design and the techniques of the decoration of leather."....binding developed as a craft, one which has endured to this day. Over the years as books proliferated the need for bookbinding increased; the invention of printing provided a new impetus to the craft. The earliest printed books were issued by their printers in unbound sheets; those who purchased them arranged to have them bound according to their individual requirements and taste.1"

"...The 16th century bibliophile Jean Grolier,vicomte d'aquisy. of Lyons, was first to develop a special style of designs individual to himself. Although Jean Grolier is regarded correctly as a French bibliophile, the bindings executed for him were essentially Italian in their principles of design. Grolier possessed one of the finest private libraries of his time (and
possibly any other time), consisting of some 3,000 volumes contained within bindings of superlative richness and beauty. Grolier lived in Italy, with only a few interruptions, between 1510 and about 1525, and, while there, became the friend of the celebrated printer, Aldus Manutius. It is said that in appreciation of Grolier's friendship and financial assistance, Aldus printed several copies on vellum or large paper for Grolier, several of which were dedicated to him. Grolier is believed to have patronized several binders over the years he collected, including Claude de Picques, and the so-called fleur-de-lis and cupid's bow binders. The books which Grolier acquired in his early years (including many of his Aldine volumes) possess the distinguishing characteristics of Italian binding of the time he lived in Italy. The Grolier bindings, the designs of which have been imitated more than those of any other style, with the possible exception of the pointillé bindings, are usually classified into two distinct groups: 1) those executed expressly for him; and 2) those bound before he acquired them either through purchase or gift. Although the bindings executed for Grolier are distinctly similar in style, they vary considerably in their ornamentation. The designs generally consist of a geometrical pattern, occasionally colored, combined with arabesque work, which is solid, azured, or only outlined. On some of his bindings, however, the geometrical pattern has no arabesques, while in others the arabesque work is found without the geometrical design. Nearly all of the books of the first class, as well as many of those of the second, include the altruistic inscription, lo. Grolierii et Amicorvm (of Jean Grolier and his friends), usually at the tail edge of the upper cover, which he apparently borrowed from his contemporary, Mahieu. Both covers of most of Grolier's bindings feature a central compartment, usually containing the title of the book on the upper cover, and the expression Portia Mea, Domine, Sit in Terra Vivetivm (Let my portion, O Lord. be in the land of the living), on the lower cover. Other legends also at times appear on his bindings. Grolier's signature, or his motto, with several slight variations, is frequently found in his own hand inside the books he collected before about 1536. This was usually written at the back. There are two distinct features to Grolier's bindings which were not consistently practiced by other contemporary collectors: 1) the pastedowns are vellum, followed by two conjugate white paper flyleaves, which are followed by a vellum leaf conjugate with the pastedown, which is followed by a final conjugate pair of paper leaves; and 2) the edges are gilt but not gauffered or otherwise further embellished."* Many examples of his work still exist, and his name is perpetuated by many societies of the present day. Since his day, binders of great repute have been more or less numerous, and various styles of bindings have been originated and are known by the names of such men as Le Gascon, Derome (Seven generations of Deromes were binders for 100 years. Nicolas-Denis was the best known member of the family), the Brothers Eve, Jansen (These bindings only had lettering on the outside of the cover, but had elaborately tooled doublures), "Padeloup, le jeune,was probably the outstanding craftsman of a distinguished family that was associated with the craft for more than 150 years. Padeloup was apprenticed to his father, Michel (c 1654-1725), and probably became a master bookbinder in about 1712. More commonly known as Padeloupe "le jeune," he was appointed royal binder to Louis XV in 1733, succeeding Luc Antoine Boyet. Padeloup was esteemed both
for the solidity of his forwarding and the embellishment of his bindings. He had an eclectic taste and most of his bindings displayed several diverse styles of ornamentation mingled together. Padeloup often decorated his books with DENTELLE (lace-work) borders, and has even been credited by some with the introduction of this border, although there is no real proof of this. He also executed, but with less success, several bindings with onlaid work in different colored leathers. Although these mosaics were well executed, the tile like design of many of them is considered by some authorities to be too feeble. He is also credited with the introduction of the "repetition" design. Some of Padeloup's bindings are in imitation of the work of Florimond Badier , sometimes repeating the silver-threaded headbands of that period. Padeloup was also one of the first binders to "sign" his bindings, by means of a ticket bearing his name and address."* Roger Payne in England (His designs, made up of a few small tools he cut himself, are splendidly simple. He is also well known for his elaborately detailed bills). During this formative period, leather was not as universally used as it is to-day, many bindings being made of wood, silver, velvet, cloth of gold and embroideries on various materials. Of the modern French school, we need only mention a few names such as Trautz, Chambolle­Duru, Gruel, Lortic, Marius-Michel, Ruban, and in England, Bedford, Zaehnsdorf's (The firm was run by three generations of Zaehnsdorfs from 1842 until ca. 1945), Riviere (did a very large business in well executed bindings, many retrospective, but some with fine designs.) and Cobden-Sanderson ([1840-1922] influential in the Arts and Crafts movement. His designs were floral. "Cobden-Sanderson's binding had a highly beneficial influence on the binding of his day. To a certain extent, he started bookbinding on a path away from the situation in which the vast majority of bookbinders seem unable or unwilling to consider new approaches, except within the narrow limits of accepted methods. His influence on his contemporaries was considerable, and it is not unreasonable to maintain that his influence is being felt to this day. Cobden-Sanderson gave up his own bindery in 1893 to establish the Doves Bindery, originally for the purpose of binding the publications of William Morris' Kelmscott Press."* ...Aside from those mentioned, there are of course hosts of others, some of equal repute, as well as many who hope to achieve fame.

Neo Classicism imitative of classical antiquity (Hellenistic/ Roman), was much favored at the new imperial court of Napoleon in the early nineteenth century, in France became "Empire" in England "Regency" and with american motifs "Federal". Featuring laurels, laurel lines, and Greek keys, it was a style that did not suffer from understatement. Neo-classicism is described by Craig as "wiry, linear, rigid, precise elegant but not genial". It was influenced by the architects, James Stuart and Robert Adams in England. The style has remained popular to the present day, and it has a particularly rich look and is used today a good deal, on books of military history, and laudatory text or awards.
Mosaic... Bookbindings decorated by inlaying or onlaying small pieces of leather of various colors to form patterns. The technique is particularly associatedwith the work of the 19th century French bookbinders, Antoine Michel Padeloup, Louis Francois, and Jean Le Monier. This form of decoration has been used for a considerable length of time; examples of mosaics of inlaid leather, while extremely rare, date back to the 16th century. Painted mosaics consist of geometrical interlacings filled with a colored and varnished incrustation, with borders of gold lines. Very brilliant when first executed, the composition in time cracks and peels off, thus damaging the line work of gold encircling it.Repetition mosaic bindings remained popular into the 20th century.

Romantic... The western world, 19th century, particularly popular in the 1830's to 1860's. A very curly, ornate style, relatively restrained on fine leather bindings, but served as the basis of the exuberant design on cloth bindings of the period.Art Nouveau.....Pictorial bindings with colored onlays or paintings, including the lettering as a design element. Decorative floral designs were the most popular.Art Deco ... Paris, 1917 to ca. 1940 Mostly geometric forms. Characterized by the use of unusual materials: snakeskin, sharkskin, lacquered eggshell, metal plates, etc.Reflecting the sleekness of modern technology, Art Déco first became popular in the 1920's and 1930's, and enjoyed a resurgence in the 1970's. Art Déco bindings utilize gold lines, and multihued geometric inlays & onlays to produce the characteristic"streamlined" effect..Asymmetrical... In the twentieth century parralleling the Modern School in other arts.

 

 

 

 

*From Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books, A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, Matt T. Roberts and Don Etherington

many excerpts taken from the following sources in a less than scholarly fashion:

ABC of Bookbinding by Jane Greenfield , Oak Knoll Press, 1998

Art Nouveau and Art Deco Bookbinding, Duncan & DeBartha, Abrams, 1989

Book Bindings: Historical & Decorative, Maggs Bros., 1927

Bookbindings by John P. Harthan, Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1961

Bookbinding in America 1680-1910, William Spawn, Bryn Mawr, 1983

Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books, Roberts and Etherington, Library of Congress, 1982

Bookbinding in France by W. Y. Fletcher, F.S.A., Seeley and Co. 1895

Fine Bindings 1500-1700 from Oxford Library, Bodleian Library, Oxford, 1968

The History of Bookbinding 525 - 1950 A.D., Dorothy Miner, Trustees of the Walter Art Gallery, 1957

Royal English Bookbindings, by Cyril Davenport, F.S.A., Seeley and Co., 1896

1, Excerpts from FREDERICK R. GOFF Honorary Consultant in Early Printed Books Library of Congress.

 

 

 

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