52 Weeks of Fantastic Bindings, Week 41: gorgeous early 16th century French clasps

Wednesday 21 March 2012
The front cover of the early 16th century printings of the Eusebian and Sigbertian chronicles or calendars, featuring blind stamped seated stags, lamb and flags and rosettes within a blind filleted border with two large brass clasps (St Andrews copy at TypFP.B12SE).
Detail of the brass clasp and clasp-plate on TypFP.B12SE.

Earlier this week, our Muniments Archivist, Rachel Hart, was browsing our early print collections for images of Easter for another publication. You can imagine my excitement when I received a phone call saying that she’d found something perfect for our binding thread! This week’s post is a beautiful example of one of the classic binding features of old books: the clasp.

Detail of the two brass claps and clasp-plates found on TypFP.B12SE.
The brass corner-guard of TypFP.B12SE.

This binding is found protecting two early 16th century printings of the Eusebian and Sigbertian Chronicles or Calendars, both beautifully printed by Henri Estienne. The clasp is not an uncommon feature found on older books, and we have certainly featured bindings with beautiful clasp-work before on this blog, however the detail in the metal work and the relative size of the clasps found on this week’s book could not be ignored. This item has been bound in contemporary calf over oak boards (which are exposed in the upper left-hand corner), with stamps of seated stags, lamb and flags and rosettes within blind quadruple fillets in a diamond pattern. The two large brass clasps featured are mounted on calf bands (lower clasp has been remounted on modern goatskin) with brass clasp-plates and strap nails. The book also has four brass cornerpieces (guards only) on each board.

Two pages from the Chronicles or Calendars of Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea (St Andrews copy at TypFP.B12SE).
Title page of the first item in TypFP.B12SE.

The clasps on this book are still very tight, and have kept the text very clean and the binding tight. The binding style and stamps used on this book are Netherlandish or possibly Flemish in style and can be found on other books in our collection. This makes sense as these were the areas of booktrade in early modern Europe which were regularly imported from to Scotland.


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