Monday, October 29, 2012

Common Prayers, Uncommon Binding

by Stephen J. Gertz

This stunning, c. 1853, binding by Hayday of London of an 1840 edition of The Book of Common Prayer is in full brown smooth-grained Turkey morocco over beveled boards, with a single fillet framing an eye-catching panel of onlaid red, green (the quadrants, their color not, alas, fully visible due to lighting), and black morocco with gilt tooling and central cross of gilt-tooled inlaid orange morocco to both sides.

The spine compartments possess deep crimson and orange labels and are decorated in gilt with inlaid red and orange calf crosses. Fine details include extravagantly gilt-tooled dentelles, gilt-tooled edges, and all edges gilt and gauffered.

A cross is not an unusual decorative binding design for finely bound copies of The Book of Common Prayer, yet the design, while based upon earlier  ecclesiastical bindings, is a particularly handsome and contemporary mosaic. It suggests that it was bound for a man of means.

One of the most distinctive and unusual aspects of this binding is the tortoise shell effect to the Turkey morocco most visible along the top edge of the upper board. It's unclear whether the pattern is an attractive blemish in the skin itself or the result of a chemical wash. I've seen countless bindings in calf with various stain-effects (mottled, tree, rainbow, etc.) but I've never seen  morocco  leather quite like this with such a fine grain and unusual varigration.

James Hayday, (1796–1872), "bookbinder, was born in London. Of his parents, nothing is known. He was apprenticed to Charles Marchant, vellum binder, 12 Old Gloucester Street, Queen Square, London, and then for some time worked as a journeyman commencing business in a very humble way. In 1825 he became one of the auditors of the Journeymen Bookbinders' Trade Society. In 1833 he rented premises at 31 Little Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, where he continued until his retirement in 1861…

Gauffered fore-edge.

"Constant opening of traditionally bound books disfigured the grain of the leather, and to obviate this Hayday introduced the cross or pin-headed grain known as Turkey morocco. In his own binding he sewed the books fully along every sheet, a technique that caused extra thickness that Hayday remedied by sewing with silk, rather than thread. Also, in order to equalize the thickness he rounded the fore edges more than was customary. To make the back tight he dispensed with the ordinary backing of paper, and fastened the leather cover down to the back.

"Works bound by Hayday became famous and increased in monetary value. Edward Gardner of the Oxford Warehouse, 7 Paternoster Row, London, secured Hayday's services for the Oxford University Press. William Pickering, bookseller, of 57 Chancery Lane, also introduced him to many wealthy patrons…A number of his bindings are in the National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, London" (Oxford Online Dictionary of National Biography).

Between 1837-and 1838 the Hayday bindery employed between thirty and forty people including ten finishers. James Hayday's retirement in 1861 had nothing to do with a desire for a life of ease after a life of toil. He went bankrupt. He then partnered with William Mansell until he finally retired in 1869.

Close-up of gauffering, with gilt-tooled edge.

The first manual of worship in English for any religion. The Book of Common Prayer is the key and most important volume of the Church of England, uniting all Churchgoers within a common liturgy in English, and was so prior to the publication of the Church's King James translation of the Bible in 1611. It has been in print without interruption since its introduction in 1549. It was revised in 1552 and mildly amended a hundred years later, in 1662, 350 years ago.


It is, for the most part, the work and language of Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), Archbishop of Canterbury 1533-1556 and a leader of the Reformation in England, who based it upon the centuries old Latin liturgy of the English Catholic Church and gracefully simplified the language so that it would be understood by all no matter their degree of literacy. It is, what the Oxford historian and author of A History of Christianity, Diarmaid MacCulloch, has called, “one of a handful of texts to have decided the future of a world language.”

Here bound in a  masterful manner suitable for worship.

[HAYDAY, bindery]. [CHURCH OF ENGLAND]. The Book of Common Prayer, And Administration of the Sacraments. And Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, According to the Use of the United Church of England and Ireland; Together with the Psalter or Psalms of David, Pointed as They are to be Sung or Said in Churches; and the Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Oxford: Printed at the University Press by Samuel Collingwood and Co., 1840.

Small octavo (5 1/2 x 3 1/4 in; 140 x 80 mm). Unpaginated.

Images courtesy of David Brass Rare Books, with our thanks.

1 comment:

  1. Frank Mansell (1861-?) was apparently the son of William Mansell, and was apprenticed in his father's London shop. He was one of the best finishers in New York in the 1880s and 1890s, and was the original finisher at the Club Bindery. After being driven out of the Club Bindery he moved to Boston. Another top New York binder apprenticed next to Frank Mansell in the former Hayday shop was Alfred Launder (1860-1952), the finisher at Bradstreet's "Extra" bindery in the 1890s and 1900s, and later the binder at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts Department of Prints and Drawings.
    Ramsden gives a Samuel Mansell as a binder and stationer in London in 1790. Hodsen gives a George Mansell as a binder in London in 1855. I believe there was still an edition bindery named Mansell's in England after World War II, but have no details. Hayday's firm and partner cast long shadows before and after.


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