Bindings in the Spotlight (8)

G.5.54, front cover

This is a fine example of a Parisian binding dating from around 1560. It covers Plutarch’s Vies des hommes illustres which was printed, also in Paris, in 1559. In the early years of the printed book trade the place of printing was not necessarily a guide to where the binding was made. Books were distributed in sheets and were often bound for the owner at the place of sale. By the 17th century, however, many fine bindings were usually made in or near to the place of printing. There is no mark of ownership on this volume.

The volume measures 390 x 260mm and is in brown calf with gauffered edges of an interlacing pattern. The design is made with gouges and fillets and was identified by Hobson in 1929 as part of a group of eight Parisian bindings dating from around the mid-1540s to 1560 which share the attributes of an intricate interlacing pattern and, on some of the bindings, cherubic heads. The Trinity binding has two fantastical, coiled, male and female figures joined at the shoulders and the tail. In 2007 a very similar design within intertwined termes was identified on a volume in the Municipal Library of Vesoul (Haute-Saône). This second book was bound for Jean Grolier (c.1489-1565).

G.5.54 was presented to Trinity College by Mrs Anne Sadleir in 1660. It was exhibited in the Chateau de Fontainebleau in the exhibition Le Roi et L’Artiste in 2013 and is currently on display in the Wren Library during public visiting hours.


Further Reading:

Hobson, G. D., Bindings in Cambridge Libraries (Cambridge, 1929)

Le Bars, F., ‘Décors figurés des reliures de la Renaissance: à propos d’une reliure de Grolier inédite à Vesoul’, Bulletin du Bibliophile (2009) no. 1, p.11-55