Friday, February 17, 2012

A Magnificent Padded Onlay Pictorial Binding

by Stephen J. Gertz

Yesterday, we looked at inlaid pictorial bindings by Chris Lewis 1960-1980. Today, we examine a beautiful onlaid pictorial binding by Riviére & Son, c. 1920s, just a few years before Bayntun of Bath acquired and merged the firm into its operations.

GILBERT, W.S. The "Bab" Ballads.
London: John Camden Hotten, 1869.

Bound c. 1920s by Riviere & Son.

The difference between an inlaid and onlaid binding suggests itself. Inlaid bindings involve placing varicolored pieces of cut and shaped leather into a matching, excised section of the main leather covering as a mosaic. The set-in pieces are generally flush with the surface or ever so slightly raised. 

GILBERT, W.S. More "Bab" Ballads.
London: George Routledge, n.d. [1872].

Bound c. 1920s by Riviere & Son.

With onlaid bindings, the cut and shaped pieces are applied atop the main leather cover as a mosaic. In this example, the finisher (alas, unknown) went the extra distance and padded the pictorial onlays to bring them into high-relief, and how. The resulting scene pops off the background as sculptured leather with depth and contour.

Angle shows high-relief.

Robert Riviere (1808–1882), bookbinder, was born in London in 1808. Upon leaving school, in 1824, he apprenticed with Messrs. Allman, the booksellers, In 1829 he established his own book shop. In 1840 he established his own business as a bookbinder.

The excellent craftsmanship and fine taste demonstrated by his bindings gradually  Riviére the attention of connoisseurs, and he was employed by the Duke of Devonshire, Mr. Christie-Miller, Captain Brooke, and other great collectors. He also bound for the queen and the royal family.  He won
 a medal at the Great Exhibition of 1851 for his work.

Riviére's bindings, in the quality of materials, forwarding, finishing, and delicacy of the tooling deserve all the praise a binder can hope hope for. His bindings are wonderful specimens of artistic taste, skill. But though Riviére seldom strayed from traditional binding styles, the work of Riviére & Son remains the standard for quality and master craftsmanship.

Riviere bequeathed his business to this son-in-law in 1880, and the name of the firm was changed to Riviere & Son. Bayntun of Bath acquired Riviere  c. 1930.

Close-up: Note high-relief against background.

Not incidentally, biting, satirical, absurdist ballads were what W.S. Gilbert was up to before he  partnered-up with Arthur Sullivan, H.M.S. Pinafore, etc., to come. "Bab" as in "baby" was his nickname, his verse,  accompanied by his own comic illustrations, became extremely popular in FUN, a weekly mag, when they first appeared c.1865, and, by 1869, here we are, the first collected edition of The Babs Ballads with a first of it's follow-up, bound with a state of the craft padded onlay pictorial scene within a sunken panel bordered in gilt and framed by a broad, extravagant, exuberantly gilt decorated border with peacock-feather tooling because this binding has a lot to be proud of.

[RIVIÉRE & SON, binders]. GILBERT, W.S. The "Bab" Ballads. [together with:] More "Bab" Ballads. Much Sound and Little Sense. London: John Camden Hotten [and] George Routledge and Sons, 1869 [and] (n.d., i.e. 1872).

First editions. Octavo (7 1/8 x 5 1/8 in; 180 x 128 mm). ix, [2], 14-222, [4, adv.]; viii, [1], 224, [4. adv.] pp. Black and white frontispieces with tissue guards, black and white text illustrations throughout.

Bound c. 1920 by Riviere & Son in full emerald crushed morocco with a broad, elaborately gilt decorated frame with floral spirals, peacock feather corner pieces, and peacock feathers at the mid-points, enclosing an ovate, gilt-bordered and decorated sunken central panel within which are figures from the text pictorially depicted with multi-colored, padded morocco onlays. Lower board with double fillets and gilt decorated corner pieces. Gilt-rolled raised bands. Gilt decorated compartments. Wide turn-ins with gilt corner pieces. All edges gilt. Moire silk endpapers. Gilt-rolled edges.

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