1.1.6: 1460 - 1585 - Bookbinding (including bookbinderies)

Until the 1830s, a binding was usually made by order of the first owner of the book who bought the book in sheets or in folded gatherings which were held together by provisional sewing. The owner then went to a binder who bound it in accordance with his wishes, resources and the binder's abilities. Until at least the mid-sixteenth century, but seldom later, printing and binding were sometimes combined, possible examples being Johan Veldener and Jacob Bathen. The combination bookseller and binder was more usual.

The binding process began with the individual sheets of the book being checked for completeness, possibly sized and then folded. The resulting gatherings were sewn with thread onto raised cords of leather, vellum, or cord, which, in our part of the world, remained visible until about 1550 as raised bands on the spine and which were, during the Renaissance, sometimes recessed in saw cuts. After trimming the edges of the text block, possibly decorating the edges and stitching the endbands, boards of wood or cardboard were fitted and the whole was covered with leather or vellum or some other material. For simple vellum bindings with bookblocks sewn on thongs, the spine was not affixed and the cover boards remained flexible; the board was thin or was omitted. Up until the end of the sixteenth century, part of the final process was the mounting of brass or silver clasps or furniture, or (leather) ribbons. If the client required it, the binding was then tooled, up to around 1550 blind and after that, increasingly in gold.

There are no surveys on the history of Dutch bindings for the period until the end of the sixteenth century and therefore, a number of comments will have to suffice. Bindings from the early Middle Ages consisted mostly of leather of the hide of game animals over sturdy wooden boards or of flexible vellum. The better examples from the late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance consisted of calf carefully burnished on bevelled wooden boards; clasps and furniture were less robust than previously. Simpler bindings and limp covers in leather or vellum were also produced, perhaps in fairly large quantities. There is no difference between bindings on manuscripts or printed works. Few examples are known from the period before 1450; but considerably more from the period after that.

The history of tooled bindings begins in the Netherlands around 1350, and perhaps even as early as 1250, with bindings impressed with panel stamps - an invention from the Netherlands - used there until around 1560/1570, first with increasing and later with decreasing regularity. In the Northern Netherlands, up until about 1500, all kind of decorative tooling was applied, from a simple diamond pattern of lines and one with small hand tools, to blocks in the centre of the board, set in a frame of lines applied with groups of small tools. Contrary to those from the South, bindings from the Northern Netherlands were almost never tooled with more than one block.

Changes took place around 1510 under the influence of the, until around 1600 rather more important, Southern Netherlands. Specially made diamond-shaped tools were used in lozenge-shaped compartments. From 1520 onwards, under the influence of Germany, the use of the roll, introduced around 1480, increased in importance, bringing Renaissance patterns to otherwise still fully medieval bindings. The wooden boards were gradually replaced by those of cardboard (often consisting of mackle, pasted together) and the clasps by leather ties.

Around 1550, the renowned printer Christopher Plantin introduced gold tooling in Antwerp, a technique he had learned in Paris. Around 1570, the Renaissance 'semé' patterns and 'Persian' pattern with corner blocks and centre blocks, used by binders in the South, were adopted by their colleagues in the North, but seldom up to the same standard of quality. In addition, the composition of tooling within frames (usually of lines), corner tools or blocks and a composition of tools in the centre gained favour. This determined, in more sober or richer variations, what Dutch bindings looked like from 1590 to the 1630s.

author: Jan Storm van Leeuwen

Bookbinding (including bookbinderies)

Veldener, Johan - biographical data

Name: Veldener, Johan
address: Leuven 1473/74-1477, 1484-1486
address: Utrecht 1478-1481
address: Culemborg 1483

Images about Veldener Johan

User traces of a reader: this chronicle 'Fasciculus temporum' has been continued in manuscript after the colophon .