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)

xylographic printing

Definition: 1. printing process used in the 15th century for books in which text and image are cut out of a block of wood and are printed from that block;. 2. impression made according to this process.

printing houses

Definition: establishment or firm where books are printed.

art of printing

Definition: the art of reproducing written texts by means of movable type as it was applied for the first time in the middle of the 15th century in Europe.

printing on demand

Definition: printing publications on demand by means of a high-grade laser printer instead of a printing press. Makes it possible to produce small print runs at a relatively low price.

intaglio printing

Definition: printing technique whereby the image is cut or etched in the forme (plate or cylinder), inked and transferred to the paper by pressing it forcefully against the forme.

printing capacity

Definition: production capacity of a printing house or printing press, measured in the number of printed sheets per time unit

printing ink

Definition: sticky substance, containing pigment, used in printing the forme.

printing houses

Definition: establishment or undertaking where printing takes place.

printing- publishing houses

Definition: establishment of a printer-publisher.

printing establishment

Definition: 1. printing office. 2. general term for all establishments and institutions which play a role in the production of printed matter.

printing materials

Definition: collective term for all material needed in the production of printed matter, machines as well as tools and raw material.

printing presses

Definition: 1. general term for a device or machine for the printing of books, plates, etc. 2. the whole of the activities carried out in the printing and distribution of texts.

automatic printing presses

Definition: apparatus or machine for printing books, plates, etc., automatically operating, i. e. not driven by human power.

printing process

Definition: collective term for all activities necessary in the production of printed paper.

printing techniques

Definition: collective term for the various technical procedures (letterpress, intaglio, planographic printing, screen print, foil print) used to transfer or multiply text and/or image on to paper or other material.

printing sheets

Definition: the printed sheet as it is produced on the printing press, to distinguish it from a folding sheet.

letterpress printing

Definition: printing process whereby the inked parts of the forme are raised above the non-printing ones.

printing privileges

Definition: right for the protection of printers and publishers against the illegal reproduction of printed matter before the introduction of the modern copyright.

newspaper printing offices

Definition: office or company where newspapers are printed.

printing types

Definition: metal stick with on it the raised image of a letter, figure or symbol, with which printing can be done in relief.

collotype printing shops

Definition: printing shop where printed matter is produced by means of the collotype process.

music printing

Definition: printing musical works; generally executed with one of the following techniques: letterpress, lithography or photolithography.

copperplate printing

Definition: printing process in which a copperplate press is used.

rotary printing

Definition: printing process where use is made of a rotary press.

printing the white

Definition: 1. first printing of a sheet whereby the front is printed. 2. printed front of a sheet.

planographic printing

Definition: printing process with a flat forme (stone or metal plate) on which by a process involving chemicals the image to be printed holds the printing ink, while its surrounding area rejects it.

screen printing (1) screen print(2)

Definition: 1. printing technique whereby the ink is pressed by a squeegee through a fine-meshed textile or metal screen in which a stencil has been put. 2. print made by this procedure.