52 Weeks of Fantastic Bindings: Week 5

Wednesday 13 July 2011

16th century French Fanfare binding

This week’s fantastic binding, like Week 2, comes from the Bible collection, only this item is much bigger! St Andrews’ copy of Jean de Tournes 4th printing of La Sainte Bible is fantastic for many reasons: its gorgeous woodcuts by Bernard Salomon, its beautiful binding and its scarcity. This 1561 edition is only recorded as being in the libraries at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Oxford, the Morgan Library and at the New York Public Library. The engraver Bernard Salomon had a close relationship with de Tournes, and each of his editions of the Bible use his woodcuts throughout. This 1561 printing features three new engravings in the Book of Joshua featuring the building of the monument in the Jordan, the feast in Galilee and Joshua and the angel (for more on this, see this article by Robert Baron).

St Andrews’ copy at BibBS230.B61 is a wonderful and early example of 16th century French ‘fanfare binding’. Fanfare binding became popular in the first half of the 16th century, especially in Paris, and can be found on many fine continental books. Bindings of similar style do not start to become popular in Great Britain until the beginning of the 17th century. It is an intricate and elaborate style of binding that, according to Etherington & Roberts, “called for the greatest skill on the part of the bookbinder.” St Andrews’ copy of this Bible (pictured below) is a particularly early example of this type of binding and it is stunning to behold. It is in this instance where you can truly tell a book by its cover!


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