52 Weeks of Fantastic Bindings: Week 14
16th century half-binding, with pen- and ink-drawing of Saint Veronica
This week’s volume is a testament to how durable some of our historic bindings are. TypGC.B21HL is the 1521 Cologne printing of Jacques Lefèvre d’Etaples’ Commentary on the four evangelists published by Gottfried Hittorp. This is a hefty book, coming in at over 480 leaves, and it is bound accordingly in contemporary wooden boards which have been quarter bound in blind tooled pigskin with a triple fillet and stylised flowers. There is evidence of two brass clasps that were attached to pigskin bands that had been nailed into the back board. The binding on this volume is still very tight, and has kept its contents in pristine condition.
Although printed in Cologne, it is unclear where this volume was bound, as the earliest identifiable provenance is an inscription on the front paste-down: “Wilhelmüs Galberth .p. 1525” and an inscription at the foot of the title page: “Monrij B.M.V. in Ossiach” (i.e. Stift Ossiach, the Benedictine monastery at Ossiach). Hittorp’s reputation as an influential bookseller, publisher and humanist author and the popularity of Lefèvre d’Etaples’ works could mean that this book was sold at the Frankfurt market and then made its way south, across the Alps, and into Austria. This book is full of mid-16th century marginalia, underscoring and maniculae, hinting at its heavy usage in the monastic environment.
The most impressive bit of provenance, however, is found on the back paste-down: an impressive pen- and ink-drawing of Saint Veronica has been done in a very professional manner. This drawing has been signed “ZG” and dated “1576”. The shading and heavy outline nature of this drawing shows a sophisticated hand, possibly someone who was familiar with engraving methods and book illustration. This was very possibly done in the monastery at Ossiach, as Wolfgang Lazius reports that the library and archive had been built by 1549, and this book was probably part of the collection by then.