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