52 Weeks of Fantastic Bindings: Week 21

Thursday 3 November 2011

A book fit for a countess

The front board of TypBP.D86MJ.

This little gem just came off the shelf a few days ago to be fully catalogued.  This is one of the three dozen or so items found in the Perth section of the Typographical collection, and is certainly the prettiest.  It is the first volume of publisher R. Morison and Son’s “The Scotish poets” being  The works of James I, King of Scotland, printed 1786. It is cleanly printed, and also includes an added engraved title page and an engraved portrait of James I (see below). The Morison family had a long tradition of quality printing in Perth, starting with Robert Morison (d. 1791) and ending with David Morison (Robert’s grandson) in 1855 (click here for more on printing in Perth and the Morison family).

The additional engraved title page and portrait found in TypBP.D86MJ.

This item is bound in a very rich style, and, at first glance I though this could be another James Scott of Edinburgh binding (see the Fantastic Bindings, week 9 post for more information of James Scott), but after comparing the tools used, I’m pretty sure it’s not. It has been bound in contemporary calf, with gold tooled and rolled border and with a gold tooled floral frame which surrounds inlaid tree calf and green stained calf. A swan has been stamped four times in gold and a trophy of musical instruments has been stamped twice in gold on each board. The board edges and turn-ins have been tooled in gold and contemporary marbled endpapers have been added. The fore-edges are beautifully gilt and gauffered in a floral pattern that has been applied quite heavily. This binding is a wonderful example of 18th century expensive craftsmanship.

The gauffered fore-edge of TypBP.D86MJ.

Who would have paid for something like this? An inscription on the front free endpaper tells us:

“Dryburgh Abbey April 21, 1789. To the Right honble The Countess of Buchan, from her affectionate husband, Buchan.”

This ‘Buchan’ is David Stewart Erskine, 11th Earl of Buchan, who purchased Dryburgh Abbey in 1786, founder of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, friend of Sir Walter Scott, and well known eccentric. The printing of this book is also dedicated to him. His wife, to whom this book is given to, is the Countess of Buchan Margaret (Fraser) Erskine.


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