Parchment was used as a medium for writing and illuminating religious and scientific manuscripts; it was folded, sewn together and protected by wooden boards; the wooden boards were covered with. leather, the leather was ornamented, incised or tooled. In incising leather, cowhide or deerskin was. used. The design, was incised in the leather by means of a small knife; the incisions thus produced were opened up and the background was then punched down with small pearl punches. The books were often very heavy and ponderous. They were provided with metal bosses and clasps, and were in some instances secured against loss by means of heavy iron chains.
In many cases blind tooling was, resorted to. At first some of the wood cuts used in illustrating the pages of the book were impressed in the moistened leather. Later these dies were cut in metal, heated and then impressed, thus producing a brown decoration of some beauty. Paper, as well as the art of printing from movable letters, was introduced, and with this came a greater demand for books. The customary hand illumination was more and more crowded out by woodcut illumination, and the artist who designed these did not disdain to furnish suggestions and designs for cover decoration to the binder. The handicraft of the binder was firmly established; from its ranks the art binder sprang into existence. A finer quality of covering material was produced in morocco leather, and gold tooling and inlaying were practiced for its embellishment.
By means of heated engraved hand-stamps, or gouges, a design was im- pressed on the morocco; the impression thus created was pencilled in with egg glaire; gold leaf was laid on the leather and the design was again impressed with the same heated tools, after which the superfluous gold leaf was wiped off, thus showing the design clearly. Where inlaying was done, two different ways of proceeding are observable. Some binders pared the inlaying leather down to tissue-paper thinness, cut it out to the shape desired, and then pasted it on the binding. Others would cut the inlays out of the full thickness of the leather, cut the corresponding shapes out of the binding and place the inlay in. the vacuum thus created. These inlays were then encircled with gold tooling, and produced such pretty effects that the art-bound book became a necessity to the wealthy, and kings and nobles vied with each other for the possession of the finest library.
Book lovers, like Canevari, Majoli and Aldus Manutius, led the movement in Italy; Grolier took it up in France. Francis I, De Thou, Henry II, Diane de Poitiers, and numerous others gave the new movement their generous support. France soon acquired the lead in the art articleic; great binders developed; Le Gascon, the Eves, the Deromes, the Pas de Loup and numerous others left the stamp of their ingenuity upon their bindings, and their successors of today have gradually extended the scope of the handicraft into the field of the fine arts.
The Aldine style consists of solid gold ornaments of strictly conventionalized oriental character, which are joined to corner and enter pieces by means of gouges and lines.
The Majoli style consists of a framework of ribbons and shields, partly inlaid, partly gold tooled, through which scroll work flows. The shape of the handstamps used in combination with the scrolls is decidedly oriental and strictly conventionalized. Some are mere outlines of forms while others are azured. Parts of some designs are studded in gold.
The Grolier style is very much like the Majoli from which it was evidently taken, but the motifs have been further elaborated and refined. A framework of geometrically arranged figures in ribbons cover the book,, through which scroll-work, ending in azured stamps of strictly conventionalized oriental character runs. The framework thus created is often enriched by inlaying.
The style commonly known as Le Gascon, consists of an inter-connected, severely geometrical framework of lines and circles, the compartments of which are filled with small, closely joined circular scrolls of various sizes with leafy forms, whose outlines consist entirely of dots.
The style known as Eve consists of a similarly constructed geometrical framework, as that of Le Gascon, but the compartments, instead of being filled with dotted scrolls, are filled with small floral ornaments, laurel foliage, fragments of palms, etc., combined with circular scrolls called fanfares. The style known as the Derome dentelle consists in a combination of elliptic scrolls of slightly shaded leafy character joined to clusters and borders of great richness closely resembling lace.Ã‚
In England the only style left to posterity is the one originated by Roger Payne. It consists of sprays of flowing leaves, stems and floral elements tooled without any apparent scheme in the corners, the interstices of which are filled with circles of various sizes and studded with gold.
There is today no known material but what has been experimented with for binding purposes. The universe has been ransacked, but though the bowels of the earth and the depths of the waters have been searched and forced to yield their contingent, nothing has yet been found that can take the place of the peerless levant morocco, a leather gained from the skin of the Cape goat, and hitherto unexcelled for its pliability, its toughness and long fiber. Many substitutes have been produced the English levant, the Persian levant, and others-but these can no more take the place of the genuine French maroquin du levant than the amateur binder or the modern factory hand can take the place of the skilled craftsman, and no art binder of repute will ever palm off these poor substitutes for the genuine article.