|The Binding of Books
An Essay in the History of Gold-Tooled
Bindings by Herbert P. Horne
|Early Italian Bindings 7
|The unmistakable influence of Eastern art upon Venetian binding is further shown in another
method of decoration, directly copied from Persian, and other Oriental books. In this kind of
binding, which was in vogue about the middle of the sixteenth century, the boards were
commonly formed of some composition of paper, which was worked into sunk panels or
compartments, and which was sometimes covered with leather. Among the books in the Old
Royal Collection, now in the British Museum, is a copy of Girolamo Mascher's, It Fiore delta
Reton"ca, Venice, 1560, bound in this manner, for presentation to Queen Elizabeth, to whom
the work is dedicated [CO 20. a.]. In this example, a pattern is stamped in slight relief upon the
sunk and gilt panels at the angles of the boards; the central panel being painted with the arms
of England: while the raised ground, surrounding the panels, is covered with red morocco, which
is left undecorated except for the name, , Elisabetta,' and some slight ornament, which are
painted upon the leather in gold. In another example, being the cover of a manuscript, written
about 1568, of certain acts of Guidobaldo II., Duke of U rbino, investing Count Pietro Bonarelli of
Ancona, and Hippolita, his wife, with. the territories of Orciano and Torre, the sunk panels are
treated in a similar way, the arms in the central panel being coloured with especial richness: and
the upper ground is painted with arabesques in gold, upon a blue field [Add. MS. 22,660.]. There
is, in the South Kensington Museum, a collection of stamps and tools, used by Persian workmen,
in the production of bindings of this nature [Nos. 376-404, 1885.]; from which it would appear,
that each of these sunk panels, was formed by the impression of a single die, or stamp.
Bindings of this kind were not adapted to withstand the friction, which must result from their use
on a shelf: indeed, they appear to have been used only, by the Italians, as in the foregoing
instances, in the adornment of principal copies, to recall a phrase of Lord Herbert's.
The pattern common to the Aldine bindings, which I have described, and which consists in a
panel, ornamented with knots, or letters, within a figured border, although most frequently
found upon the books of that time, is by no means the only one, which was employed by the
early Italian binders.
They are more commonly found with the Lion of St. Mark, painted on the central panel; in which
instances, they seem to have been employed as the official bindings of the Statutes and
Commissions of the Venetian Senate; an example of which may be seen among the Harleian
Manuscripts [No. 3393.]. They are, perhaps, chiefly valuable in showing, how greatly the art of
Venice was influenced by that of Persia and the East. The incongruity of the Italian manner, in
which the arms on the central panels of these bindings are painted, with that of the rest of the
work, which is closely imitated from some Persian original, is not a usual trait of Italian art.
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