Italian embroidered binding, velvet. 1702 Missale Romanum. Valfray, Lugduni.


A beautiful velvet embroidered binding decorates this 1702 Missale Romanum. Candle drips, two heavily worn sections and festival programs tipped in (at the rear) testify to the ecclesiastical duties this Missale served.

Many of the tipped in programs were printed in Caltagirone, Italy, and one program states that it's for the use of Caltagirone, for celebration of St. Julian; this indicates that the book was in service in the Caltagirone diocese. The oldest church, in Caltagirone, is dedicated to St. Julian.

The embroidered binding was a bookbinding style from the 15th to 18th century; it was largely popular among the affluent in England, in the 16th and 17th century, but went into decline after the English Civil War. You can find Cyril Davenport's work on English Embroidered Bindings on Google Books, available to view at no charge. Davenport's work shows many embroidered bindings were in the collections of nobility and often bore their initials, coat-of-arms, etc..

This example hails from Italy. We discussed the book's likely Italian provenance, but a second clue is the binding itself. The British Library holds a 1705 Missale, whose binding is quite similar, which can be seen online in their Database of Bookbindings, shelfmark C188c5, which they also accredit to Italy.

This printing is well-illustrated and exhibits handsome typography . An exciting full-page frontis begins the volume. The title page hosts a large allegorical printer's mark. The book is printed in red and black, with the red used for rubrication including rubricating large inhabited initials. Eleven full-page engravings begin the sections of the book, with full-page engraved borders on the facing pages. Also, numerous sections with sheet music showing the staffs, with notes, in red and black.

I'd like this book to go to an institution who will prepare appropriate storage for it. As time goes by, embroidered bindings from this period are going to be subject to more decay due to the fragile nature of velvet, etc.. I would prefer this example to be saved from the decay of time, as best possible, and sometimes exhibited. For the last ten years, this book has been bouncing around the market (Chiswick, Millea Bros, D and D Galleries) since it came out of the Estate of Marian and Jacob Javits.

Also, on the note of provenance, the "Sesslers" written at the top of the frontis, may refer to the Philadelphia rare book dealer Charles Sessler, active circa 1900.

Physical Attributes -

Measures approx. 38 x 26 x 5.5 cm.. Embroidered binding, reddish-purple vellum, with gold and silver thread forming fleur-de-lis, florets, vines and leaves; an inner and outer border to the boards in blind. Spine with same decoration. Illustrated.

Pages - xxxii, 656, cxvi, (2 insert), 8 - index

Collation - Frontis, A1-D4, A1-HHh6, IIi4, a-i6, k1-4, inserted leaf, k5-6

Illustrations - Frontis, printer's mark, eleven full-page, eleven illustrated borders, several tailpieces, inhabited initials.

Condition -

See pictures. Binding with some loss of velvet, and thread, exposing their bases. Edges and corners worn, pasteboard coming through at the corners (and bumped). A little damage to the velvet at the bottom of the spine. Thread largely dulled, some of the silver and gold threads on the rear board still shine in light. Hinges with cloth strip strengthening them.

"PLDTS" on flyleaf in graphite, ghosting of an insert (not there now) on pastedown/flyleaf. Frontis mounted; graphite "Sesslers" at top margin, bottom corner dog-eared. Some toning throughout. Occasional thumbing, fox spot, candle wax spot, dog-eared page, etc. Tab(?) remnants top-edge 99. Some candle wax on 174/175. Wax on 246/247. A few small worm tracks at top margin mid-book. Tabbed pages heavily thumbed, with tabs mounted, silk worn, candle wax, and some repairs to page edges, 251-263. 1" strip of 253 tore/stuck to 255 at gutter near top. Pen mark on 253. Candle ember hole 301. Tissue repair on 376. 422-438 well-used, thumbed, with tissue repairs overlaid, some see-through, but some not with several words written back in. More toning and some foxing 530 to 620. Repair bottom margin iii (a2). Bottom margin of xlvii (d6) repaired. Annotated pagination corrections leaves signed e1-2. Inscription in an old hand at bottom of inserted leaf between k4-5. Last leaf of Missale mounted and repaired. Also, last inserted leaf at rear with fore-edge repaired.

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