Date: Ca. 1561 (band)
Size: 17 x 12 cm.
Shelfmark: 1790 D 109
The Koninklijke Bibliotheek possesses a few very beautiful French book covers dating from the mid-sixteenth century. At that time Paris was the leading light in bookbinding. Books were bound in costly Morocco leather, which replaced calf leather in luxury bindings. Artists designed sets of prints with examples of applications of new ornamentation and the bookbinders perfected the techniques of gilding and colouring leather. Members of the nobility, but also highly-placed officials such as Jean Grolier and Thomas Mahieu had their books bound according to the latest fashion. New decoration schemes were used - complicated ribbon patterns tooled with loose classical motifs, partly coloured in with enamel paint.
William of Orange is not mentioned in studies of book bindings from this period. Nevertheless, the prince also spent time at the French court during this period and must have seen the splendidly bound books of his host Henri II, who was the greatest bibliophile of his day.
William of Orange also built up a library suitable for a 'perfect courtier', with books about history and the art of war, but a few titles about love as well. However, he had his books bound in a much more austere style: brown calf leather with a frame formed by lines along the edges, with a coloured version of his coat of arms in the middle and above it part of the title in gold. It is not clear why the prince did not opt for the splendour of the French court. Perhaps it was lack of money, or perhaps he was too preoccupied by his intended marriage to Anne of Saxony and other diplomatic entanglements.
He must have been very fond of the 48 books he had had bound in this fashion, since along with a few others he took them with him when he moved to Germany in 1568. Now twenty books from this collection - which is very important to Dutch history - have been recovered. (RT)