52 Weeks of Fantastic Bindings, Week 46: an armorial stamp to remember an Earl by
This week’s binding post is taking a slightly different turn: instead of focusing on one book, we’re looking at a collection of over 100. In, or around, 1645 Francis Scott, the 2nd Earl of Buccleuch, presented to St Leonard’s College 113 books. This type of donation was a common trend amongst Royals, Peers and other dignitaries to St Andrews in the 17th century, after the formation of the Common Library. Buccleuch had been a student at St Leonard’s c. 1640, and it is assumed that this was a gift in relation to his time here. The vast majority of the books (of which about 70% have been catalogued online) are early 17th century editions of theological texts, but the works of humanist philosopher Julius Caesar Scaliger and his historian son Joseph Justus Scaliger are well represented. This donation was integrated into the Common Library by the 18th century and is now what forms the Buccleuch Collection.
What makes this collection stand out, in regards to bindings, is that all of these items, big and small, were bound uniformly at the time of donation. Each volume has been bound in dark stained calf on boards, with a double gold fillet (usually with gold-stamped floral corners) and the Earl’s coat of arms stamped in gold, with the intials “E.F.B.” on both boards. This stamp does not vary in size, infact the stamp hardly fits on some of the smaller items (see left), and so it is assumed that it was cut for this donation. The coat of arms featured on these bindings is the earliest Buccleuch design, before the Earldom and Duchy expanded.
These books are further decorated, when possible (i.e. when the spine was big enough), with the Earl’s coat of arms and initials stamped in gold in each spine panel of each volume. When the surface of the spine was not wide enough, only his initials were stamped. The effect of this decoration style, when walking down the stacks, is that this collection screams “Here I am! Pay attention to me, remember me!” This collection is a beautiful example of fine 17th century presentation bindings and is mostly in very robust condition. Its bindings certainly speak to the magnitude of the Earl’s lasting gift.