52 Weeks of Fantastic Bindings, Week 38: an 18th century Scottish Wheel Binding

Friday 2 March 2012
A mid-18th century Scottish wheel binding, found on St Andrews copy at Bib BS185.D44E5.

This week’s binding posts features one of the classic hallmarks of 18th century Scottish bookbinding: the wheel pattern.  The wheel pattern was the Scottish answer to the very popular 17th century Italian fan-style binding. This particular binding is found on  a currently uncatalogued copy of the Bible, printed in 1744 in Edinburgh by Richard Watkins (ESTC T230899). This edition of the bible is richly illustrated with fold-out maps and with engravings at the heads of many books (see below for the opening of Genesis).

The title page of Bib BS185.D44E5.

The original binding features an elaborate central wheel with alternating spokes of foiliage and thistles, surrounded by large foliate patterns, all done in gold; this is enclosed in three borders, all gold roll-stamped, with gold tooled board edges and turn-ins. The spine was also heavily decorated with gold stamped panels. The book was originally bound, probably in Edinburgh, in red goatskin (or “morocco”) on pasteboards, however it was repaired in 1979.

The opening chapter of Genesis, with a facing page full of illustrative engravings.

The Scottish wheel-style bindings, which where used during the majority of the 18th century, where the zenith of a previous 100 years of corner-stamped and medallion-stamped bindings, and elaborate examples can be found in The National Library of Scotland, University of Glasgow and the Bodleian Library. So far, this is the most detailed wheel-binding found at St Andrews, although many collections where more examples of these might be found remain uncatalogued!


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