There is little doubt that the first example of the style now know as “Grolier” were produced in Venice, under the eye of Grolier himself, and according to his own designs; and that workmen in France, soon rivaled and excelled the early attempts. The work of Maioli may be distinctly traced by the bold simplicity and purity of his designs; and more especially is the broader gold lines which margin the colored bands of geometric and arabesque ornamentation. All books, it must be understood, were not bound in so costly a manner, for we find pigskin, vellum and calf in use. The latter was especially preferred on account of its peculiar softness, smooth surface, and great aptitude for receiving impressions of dumb or blind tooling. It was only towards the latter part of the sixteenth century that the English binders began to employ delicate or fine tooling. During the seventeenth century the names of Du Sueil and Le Gascon were known for the delicacy and extreme minuteness of their finishing. Not disdaining the bindings of the Italian school, they took from them new ideas; for whilst the Grolier bindings were bold, the Du Sueil and Le Gascon more resembled fine lace work of intricate design, with harmonizing flowers and other objects, from which we may obtain a great variety of artistic character. During this period embroidered velvet was much in use. Then a change took place and a style was adopted which by some people would be preferred to the gorgeous bindings of the sixteenth century. The sides were finished quite plainly with only a line round the edge of the boards (and in some instances not even that) with a coat of arms or some badge in the centre.
Towards the end of the seventeenth century bookbinding began to improve, particularly with regard to forwarding. The joints were true and square, and the back was made to open more freely. In the eighteenth century the names of Derome, Roger Payne, and others are prominent as masters of the craft, and the Harleian style was introduced. The plate facing may be fairly estimated as a good specimen of Derome. Notice the extreme simplicity and yet the symmetry of design; its characteristic feature being the boldness of the corners and the gradual diminishing of the scroll work as it nears the centre of the panel. Morocco and calf were the leather used for this binding.
Hand colored calf was at this period at its height, and the Cambridge calf may be named as a pattern of one of the various styles, and one that is approved of by many at the present day – the calf was sprinkled all over, save a square panel left uncolored in the centre of the boards. The Harleian style took its name from Harley, Earl of Oxford. It war red morocco with a broad tooled border and centre panels. We have the names of various masters who pushed the art forward to very great excellence during this century. Baumgarten and Benedict, tow Germans of considerable note in London; Mackinly, from whose house also fine word was sent out, and by whom good workmen were educated whose specimens almost equal the work of their master. There were to other Germans, Kalthoeber and Staggemeier, each having his own peculiar style. Kalthoeber is credited with having first introduced painting on the edges. This I must dispute, as it was done in the sixteenth century. To him, however, must certainly be given the credit of having discovered the secret, if ever lost, and renewing it on his best work.
We must now pass on to Roger Payne, that unfortunate and erring man but clever workman, who lived during the latter part of the eighteenth century. His taste may be seen from the woodcut. He generally used small tools, and by combining them formed a variety of beautiful designs. He cut most of these tools himself, either because he could not find a tool cutter of sufficient skill, or that he found it difficult to pay the cost. We are told by anecdote, that he drank much and lived recklessly; but notwithstanding all his irregular habits, his name ought to be respected for the work he executed. His back were firm, and his forwarding excellent; and he introduced a class of finishing that was always in accordance with the character of subject of the book. His only fault was the peculiar colored paper with which he made his end papers. Colored or fancy calf has now taken the place of the hand-colored cloth has come so much into use, that this branch of the trade alone monopolizes nearly three-fourths of the workmen and females employed in bookbinding. Many other substitutes for leather have been introduced, and a number of imitations of morocco and calf are in the market; this, with the use of machinery, has made so great a revolution in the trade, that it is now divided into two distinct branches – cloth work and extra work. I have endeavored in the foregoing remarks to raise the emulation of my fellow craftsmen by naming the most famous artists of past days; men whose works are most worthy of study and imitation. I have refrained from any notice or criticism of the work of my contemporaries; but I may venture to assure the lover of good bookbinding that as good and sound work, and as careful finish, may be obtained in a first-rate house in London as in any city in the world. In the succeeding chapters, I will endeavor in as plan and simple a way as I can to give instructions to the unskilled workman how to bind a book.