IN finishing books, the operator should exercise his best discrimination with regard to the selection of tools, so that they shall be appropriate to the subject of which the book treats. In order to succeed in this, the finisher in all cases needs to be a man of wide reading and good knowledge. It is an excellent plan for the finisher, ambitious of attaining excellence in his art, to devote some time to the study of the different styles of various countries and historical epochs.
Beginning with the Egyptian form of ornament, and casually glancing at those prevailing at Nineveh and Babylon, as exemplified by the disinterred remains, he will next consider the ornamentation of Greece and Rome, and, on the fall of the latter empire, the modification of decoration which grew out of Roman art, as the Byzantine, Mauresque, or Saracenesque, and the early Gothic. Later Gothic will lead on to Renaissance, ” and, gradually, to modern art. Abundant materials exist in modern literature to aid the inquirer; while in our museums can be found actual remains of Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek, and Roman art, and our ancient churches will give plenty of Gothic examples.
A careful tour through the ” courts” of the Crystal Palace is, in itself, a fair education in styles of ornament. In finishing books to which the different classes of ornament are applicable, care should be taken not to mix the styles. When a certain class of ornament is decided upon, it should be carried consistently through. With regard to the ornamentation of modern books, some few general rules may be given, as suggesting hints to guide the taste. Works upon religious topics would seem to require a sobriety of embellishment, as being more in harmony with their character than ornament of a lighter kind. The decorations should not only be few and simple, but executed in blind toolingthat is to say, without any gold; or if gold be employed at all, it should be confined to the edges of the cover or panels, while the whole of the centre is left blind.
History and biography, if we adopt this principle, may be less gravely embellishel than religious works, but still should have weight and solidity of decoration, as far as the phrase can be applied with propriety to anything in the way of ornament. Poetry and fiction in general would be most characteristically dressed in a light, elegant, and graceful binding, except, indeed, as regards tragedy, which should be clothed in what our old dramatists would have called sad ornament. In short, the bindings should not only assimilate with the taste of the time the work treats of, but the colour should also be in harmony with its subject. It would at first sight seem somewhat inconsistent with the rules laid down, that we should embellish the binding of a modern author, and upon a modern subject, with Greek or Roman ornaments. But this is a necessity growing out of tbe very narrow limits of human invention, or, it may be, of the forms on which that invention had to work. Certain it is, that all the ingenuity of our artists, of every description, has not been able to add a single combination to those invented by the Greeks and Romans, and even they appear to be only modifications of the old Egyptian.
In modern binding, therefore, we consider the whole range of ancient embellishments as being equally appropriate to our time, only taking care to associate the grave with the grave, the light with the light, and the fanciful with the fanciful, according to the suggestions already given. We repeat this fundamental principle of the art, since, of all others, it is the most frequently neglected. The moment any ornament has been brought forward that at all catches the public taste, the binders, for the most part, snatch at it with avidity, and employ it on all occasions, right or wrong, till it is superseded by some new combination from the storehouse of antiquity. This is more particularly the case with binders in cloth; a Mauresqne tool is cut for a work on the Arabian dynasty, when, forthwith, they transfer it to the cover of a volume on the cathedrals of England, or a crimson cloth is with propriety adopted for a life of Wellington, and soon after we find it covering a biography of Bishop Heber. It is hardly necessary to dwell any longer upon this topic; but, to avoid all possibility of mistake, we add a few further illutrations. For example, we would bind a French military history in blue and an English one in scarlet. For a book on the life of Nelson, we would let the ornamentation be in imitation of cable, with, perhaps, a couple of boarding-pikes crossed in the centre of the square (see Fig. 155).
The cable makes a very beautiful roll or fillet. We should bind a treatise on the celestial bodies in cerulean blue, with stars and crescents; a botanical work in green, with a flowery border; Euclid should be tooled in squares, triangles, circles, and rhomboids; and a Moore’s ” Irish Melodies” ornamented with leaves and flowers, either in wreaths or in borders, or with an Irish harp (Fig. 156) in the centre.
Works relating to India would seem to be most fitly embellished with the vegetable and animal productions of that country ; or if the subject be historical, or of ancient date, appropriate ornaments may be found in the sculpture and architecture of the Hindoo race. Fluted pilasters, the zodiac, and figures of various kinds belonging either to their religion or their history, form the principal features to be borrowed for the purposes of the binder. It may be difficult to determine any exact style in which encyclopaedias and serials treating of all subjects and all times should be bound.
We would, however, suggest some plain ornament, such as the Grecian ornamented panel. If the bookbinder carefully follows the directions given in the preceding chapters, and carries out the hints contained in this (the last), he will have no cause to regret any trouble he may have taken in the covering of his books; for his library will present a much more chaste appearance than it would if his books were bound in the indiscriminate and thoughtless style of the present day.