The first ever books in the world were the Egyptian papyrus rolls, which were composed of several columns of ancient writing scripts. The first of these manuscripts goes back as far as the 25th BC, and until the Christian era, they remained quite popular. However, during this period, the paper or the book industry underwent a transformation, and parchment started replacing the Egyptian papyrus rolls (more on Egyptian Papyrus Rolls on Wikipedia). Writing on parchments was arranged in parallel columns, and vertical lines were used to separate one column from another. This particular pattern gave rise to the idea of cutting the parchments into flat panels, which comprised of either three or four columns. Later on, this form evolved into the books we see today.
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. Continue reading →