Wednesday, October 26, 2011

More Magnificent Bindings, Bound To Be Great

by Stephen J. Gertz

A book bound to read or worn as a tiara; two Scottish Wheels that took the high road; a Sutherland binding that soprano Joan Sutherland would have hit high C upon seeing; a Bumpus of Oxford  for Spenser of London; and a splendid binding by the London binders originally from Austria who, their surname literally translated, might have actually hailed from a town in Ohio, highlight today's fine binding bouquet.

MOORE, Thomas. Lalla Rookh: An Oriental Romance.
London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1817).
Jeweled binding by Sangorski & Sutcliffe.

This early twentieth century, extravagantly gilt, richly inlaid dark blue Levant morocco binding by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, gloriously adorned with 226 jewels, is nothing short of spectacular, a magnificent masterpiece that could not be more sumptuous. An oxygen tank may be necessary to fully enjoy this binding; it will take your breath away.

The binding features an Oriental design (apropos the poem) with the upper cover featuring a sunken central panel, its unusual nine-sided shape resembling a clump of hanging grapes, within which two birds of paradise, inlaid in lilac, green, and brown morocco and with two rubies for eyes, are perched in a grape arbor, its inlaid leaves and fruit clusters on a densely stippled gilt ground accented with nineteen turquoises, the whole central tableau surrounded by a border of interweaving bands of inlaid brown morocco set with nine bands of mother-of-pearl, the entire sunken panel surrounded by two ornate frames filled with flowering vines of Oriental design composed of hundreds of pieces of inlaid morocco in red, blue, violet, and green on a background of brown morocco and heavily stippled gilt, the outer frame accented with twenty blue chalcedonies and twenty garnets. I need to catch my breath.

The lower cover possesses a similar frame and central panel, this one featuring two lovebirds inlaid with multiple colors and with two amethyst eyes, the birds in a similar grape arbor above a large mother-of-pearl heart, the panel further adorned with three sapphires, four blue chalcedonies, five turquoises, four carnelians, and ten additional bands of mother-of-pearl. raised bands, gilt compartments with large inlaid arabesque in green and brown morocco on a gilt background, gilt titling on inlaid compartments of chestnut brown morocco round out the binding. I need to lie down.

Front doublure.

Within, a glorious front doublure of ivory morocco covered in gilt vines with inlaid violet morocco flowers, the whole framed in green morocco decorated with gilt vines and red morocco posies and berries. At its center is a hand-painted Cosway-style portrait of the author on ivory surrounded by a gilt frame with twelve flowers composed of no less than seventy-two turquoises and thirty-six garnets, the oval portrait in a sunken panel enclosed by a wreath of inlaid morocco flowers.

Doublure detail.

The rear doublure is similar but its medallion features eight amethysts set among sinuously curving inlaid lilac strapwork twining around a large (approx. one carat) Mexican fire opal encircled by twelve pearls. 

This volume enjoys a distinguished provenance, having once been in the unparalleled collection of jeweled bindings held by New York collector Phoebe Boyle, and then in the impressive library of Pittsburgh philanthropist, art collector, and bibliophile Charles J. Rosenbloom.

Ratcliffe, Hidden Treasures: Jeweled Bookbindings and Illuminated Manuscripts in England 1900-1939, M12. Boyle 212. Elkind, A Census of Jewelled Bindings ca. 1900-1939, 97).

Take a deep breath.

HERRICK, Robert. Hesperides Or Works Both Human and Divine.
London: George Newnes Ltd.; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1902.
Binding by Charles Morrell.

The above burgundy morocco binding turns on its lavishly and intricately gilt Scottish Wheel design by Charles Morrell.

Its covers display a large central wheel of twenty compartments containing slender and elegant floral tools between two lines of dots radiating from a central rosette, massed tiny circle tools at head and foot of wheel, a triangle formed by small scalloped compartments and multiple tiny flowers above and below the centerpiece, large leaf frond tools at corners, and many small tools accenting the background.

Raised bands, interlocking floral garlands forming an oval wreath in spine compartments, punctuated on either side by a cluster of crescents and other small tools, elegantly and elaborately gilt turn-ins, ivory moire silk endleaves, and all edges gilt finish the work.

The London bindery of W. T. Morrell was established c. 1861 as successor to the firm begun by Francis Bedford, who, in turn, had taken over the famous bindery of Charles Lewis. Prideaux, in Modern Bookbindings (1906), says that Morrell at that time had a very large business that supplied "all the booksellers with bindings designed by his men," with bindings that were "remarkable for their variety and merit." The binding under notice is reminiscent of the Wheel" bindings originally produced in Scotland in the eighteenth century.

Songs and Lyrics From the Dramatists 1533-1777.
 London: George Newnes; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1905.
Binding by Charles Morrell.

Charles Morrell, at the wheel again, produced this heavily and flamboyantly gilt decorated olive-brown morocco Scottish Wheel design.

Each cover has a large central wheel of twenty compartments containing slender and elegant floral tools between two lines of dots radiating from a central rosette, all contained within two scalloped concentric rings filled with dense and very regular stippling, the wheel with tangent massed gilt circlets at top and bottom and then complex fleurons farther above and below featuring a very charming cherub, corners with triangular floral ornaments, other small tools surrounding central wheel.

Raised bands; compartments attractively gilt in a playful scrolling manner with an interwoven design including two shell ornaments; very wide dentelles with intricate and complementary gilt decoration, pastedowns and free endpapers of bright crimson moire silk, and all edges gilt complete the binding.

IRVING,Washington. The Alhambra.
London and New York: MacMillan and Co., 1896.
Binding by George Thomas Bagguley.

Blame George Thomas Bagguley for this magnificent, contemporary dark green crushed morocco binding with extravagant gilt-work.

The covers feature borders of multiple plain and decorative gilt rules, a lobed inner frame with fleuron cornerpieces, the whole enclosing a large and extremely intricate gilt lozenge. Raised bands, a lavishly gilt spine in double-ruled compartments, gilt titling and dentelles complete the outer work.

Within are beautiful vellum doublures elaborately tooled in a diapered gilt, red, and green Moorish pattern.

This is a handsome example of the rarely seen Sutherland style of binding and a volume with flamboyant design elements appropriate for its contents - Irving's romanticized sketches relating to the Alhambra, the famous Moorish palace located in Granada.  Patented by the Staffordshire binder George Thomas Bagguley (b. ca. 1860), the inventive Sutherland bindings (named after the Duchess of Sutherland) are characterized by vellum doublures that are elaborately decorated with gilt and colored tooling. All of these bindings sparkle but the one under notice is distinctive in at least two ways: it is larger than the typical Bagguley binding, and the decoration on the covers is far more ornate than usual.

Established in 1890, the Bagguley firm employed a number of outsiders to design bindings (including Leon V. Solon, Dorothy Talbot, and Charles Connor), and although the bindery operated for only a few years, its output was distinguished. Bagguley himself did not do any binding, but his eminent staff of binders included Louis Genth (chief finisher at Zaehnsdorf from 1859-84) and Thomas E. Caley, who had been apprenticed to Fazakerly of Liverpool and who later worked for the Hampstead Bindery.

SPENSER, Edmund. Epithalamion and Amoretti.
London: John & E. Bumpus, Ltd., 1903.
Binding by Bumpus of Oxford.

This striking,  gilt and inlaid contemporary moss green crushed morocco binding by Bumpus of Oxford features covers with French fillet border, the upper board with a large central panel containing intricately twining thorned gilt stems with many spade-shaped dark brown inlaid morocco leaves and terminating in a total of nineteen roses in red and white inlaid morocco, the design accented with numerous gilt circlets and two inlaid red dots.

Raised bands, spine gilt in compartments with central rose framed by six inlaid red leaves and with red dot cornerpieces, gilt ruled turn-ins, vellum endleaves, top edge gilt.

Bumpus of Oxford St., a London department store that sold books, was known for classically designed, well-executed, and generally undervalued bindings produced under the Bumpus name for a substantial period, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. Packer reports that Bumpus bindings  came from the bookselling firm of John and Edward Bumpus, which was founded in 1780, and grew to offer a variety of goods. The Bumpus name was still spoken with honor amongst London binderies well into the 20th century - though Bumpus never bound a single book itself, farming out the work to top binderies, Riviere & Son, Sangorski & Sutcliffe, etc.

KEATS, John. Endymion: A Poetic Romance.
London: Printed for Taylor and Hessey, 1818.
Later binding by Zaehnsdorf.

Zaehnsdorf is responsible for this elegantly gilt and inlaid chocolate brown crushed morocco binding.

The covers possess gilt-ruled and inlaid frames of ochre and maroon morocco, a central panel intricately diapered with curving ochre acanthus leaves forming ogival compartments containing a maroon fleuron. Raised bands, and maroon-framed compartments with inlaid ochre and maroon centerpiece complete the outer work.

This binding's rich, warm colors and the lush, Art Nouveau-style design evoke luxury, seducing with its exceptional level of aesthetic and technical achievement. It is generally understood that the Zaehnsdorf firm reserved the use of the oval gilt stamp found here, depicting a binder at work, for their finest bindings.

No record of  Zaehnsdorf from Zanesville, Ohio, USA.

Bound To Be Great Week continues:

Monday: Magnificent Bindings, Bound To Be Great.
Tuesday: The Guild of Women Binders, Bound To Be Great.
Wednesday: More Magnificent Bindings, Bound To Be Great.
Thursday: The $65,000 Binding, Bound To Be Great.
Friday: Drop-Dead Gorgeous Bindings, Bound To Be Great.__________

Unless otherwise indicated, all images courtesy of Phillip J. Pirages Fine Books, currently offering these books through their just published Catalog 61: Historically Significant and Decorative Bindings 1536-2010, a magnificent production, and an instant and important reference source.

This post impossible without the assistance of Pirages' head cataloger and Booktryst contributor, Cokie G. Anderson.

Of related interest:

Five Must-See Modern French Bindings.

A Royal (Roger) Payne in the Binding.

Three Must-See Bindings.

Three More Must-See Bindings.

Search our archives under "bindings" to find more fascinating and visually stunning posts on the subject.


  1. So. Much. Beauty.

    My breath was taken away by it.

  2. Bumpus was not 'a London department store that sold books', it was 'Bookseller to H.M. the King'. For more on the firm, see the entry on its owner, John Gideon Wilson (1876-1963), in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.


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