Tag Archives: recycling

An ornamental journey

It’s been an age since I’ve been here. I am a bookbinder, but I haven’t had much experience of late, hence nothing much to say. However after a talk with my friend Hannah Brown, I made a few non new year resolutions. Practise. Practise more. So while I would like to participate in more workshops and learn interesting technique, I think at this stage I need to consolidate. So I will practise by making at least five of the same bindings. Saying that I did enter a few experiments in our Guild’s yearly exhibition. Please go visit it at the Civic Library if you are in Canberra, because we are becoming more interesting as the years go by.

The point of this post is to illuminate you further on the things that have been distracting me from binding. Printers’ decorated capitals and other ornaments.

These  are in my Flickr album “Tailpieces”. And to date, these are my best examples of a single ornament used across space and across time. In fact, during the writing of this blog I found yet another example of the same ornament.

It’s like playing “spot the difference”; the same but not quite.

When seen in this light, you have to wonder a few things? Did they buy this pattern from each other? Did they pass it on to each other? Did they duplicate it? Did they buy it from a third party? and on the questions go.

After doing research into the lives of these printers, I have come to realise that the world is indeed a small place. I had thought, erroneously, that people didn’t travel much in the olden days. But at the dawn of printing, news travelled wide and fast. Printers and bookbinders travelled; married the widows of their mentors and their heirs continued their traditions, in new places.

Here is a bit of info about the printers in chronological order:

1577: Johann Feyerabendt is a printer in Frankfurt am Main. Twice married. Related to publisher Sigmund Feyerabend;

1584: Guillaume Rouille publisher and bookseller in Lyon, he apprenticed in Venice as a bookseller with Giolito De Ferrari. He was a printer between 1545 and 1589

1600: Matthaeus Becker, printer at Frankfurt am Main from 1598 to 1602

1605; Sebastien HenricPetri, 1569 to 1627 active printer in Basel, son of Heinrich Petri.

1623: Joannis Gymnich 1570-1634 – and printer bookseller active in Frankfurt am Main and Koln

1627: Johann Saur active printer between 1591 and 1636 in Frankfurt am Main, Marburg and Kassel

1628: Jean de La Riviere

1652: Impensis Societas ecclesiastica active printing workshop in Paris

And as we speak, just today I found the same tailpiece, printed  between 1600 and 1605: 1601 Madrid by the Emprenta Real.

If you look closely they are definitely related but changed in some slight way. Some differences are obvious, some are slight. The main face is different as is the oval underneath it, which may contain initials, a blank or a symbol.Did each printer add something of their own to the block they bought? I thought that perhaps the Germans would be similar and the French would be alike; but that is not necessarily true

As far as I can tell, the 1577 Feyerabendt is the best printed and being the oldest that is perhaps not so surprising. If others are copies, then something gets lost in translation.

Now that I have come back from the London Rare Book Summer School, I understand how these might have been duplicated and sold on. They could be metal replicas of an original woodcut.

I have sat on this blog for long enough. Next week I am off to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, where I will be teaching some bookbinding while on holiday. Don’t know what the internet will be like, but I will have tales to tell; so watch this space!



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Historic binding structures: a photo essay

In my previous post I touched very briefly on the books I had been examining. I thought I’d just provide more pictures so you could get a better idea. I think there is something fascinating about discovering that bookbinding really hasn’t changed much at all in 400 years.

RB CLI 4283 – The institution laws and ceremonies of the most noble order of the garter, 1672.
This is one of the first books I ever saw in the rarebook stack, and what captured my eye was the illuminated script on the spine lining.

What an interesting lining

What an interesting lining


Speckled edges black and red

Speckled edges black and red

Composition of a cover

Composition of a cover

While dusting the books I couldn’t help open them of course. Interestingly enough many old papers have stood the test in time, not only in its robustness but also remaining pristine, not discolouring like many old books.

Here are some examples of paper:

RB CLI 3273 – Hamlet or 13 plays performed at Drury Lane and Covent Garden Theatres

one of four different watermarks in Hamlet

one of four different watermarks in Hamlet

Plate from a collection of 13 plays performed at Covent Garden

Plate from a collection of 13 plays performed at Covent Garden









RBf 483 H588 Hesychii Lexicon, 1746

RBf 483 H588 Hesychii Lexicon, 1746

RBf208 B669 Vol4- Bonaventura Opera, 1589

I look at these pictures a lot because this must have been painstaking work. Note the beading on the spine side and the many tie downs.

Bonaventura Opera - Italian endbands with beading on spine, double supports like sewn

Bonaventura Opera – Italian endbands with beading on spine, double supports like sewn


Note the recycled bit of hand written script

Note the recycled bit of hand written script

I am partial to sewing; I find it quite relaxing.

RBf CLI 3865 double support link sewn, 1628

RBf CLI 3865 double support link sewn, 1628

RB Misc 3194 Conciones quadragesimales 1701 double supports sewn as one

RB Misc 3194 Conciones quadragesimales 1701
double supports sewn as one

I do have many more photos, but it is hard to chose from them.  You might just need to visit the NLA and get them brought up from the rare book stack.

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