Black morocco mounted with brown-carmine and orange-red morocco, blind- and gold-tooled. The covers are tooled in a broad panel encompassing various elements: gold lines around a blind-tooled roll with hatchings, corner compartments and rectangular compartments, partly in onlaid leather in shades of red and brown; again gold lines around blind-tooled hatchings and compartments with decorative tooling on mounted leather. The central panel is completely tooled with blind parallel lines. The spine has four wide false bands, mounted with onlaid leather, and compartments tooled with various decorations.
We know from a label on the inside of the front cover that this binding was made by Friedrich Kolb. Nineteenth-century bookbinders were more inclined to sign their bindings than their predecessors: it is estimated that about 10% had some form of signature, for instance a label, a black stamp on an end leaf or gold-tooling on the tail end of the spine or the inside of the front cover.
Friedrich Kolb was born about 1810 in Hachenburg near Bonn. Like so many contemporary young German bookbinders he must have left his native country because it offered virtually no possibilities of making high-quality bookbindings. He settled in Amsterdam, where he married in 1834. The bookbinding illustrated on the opposite page proves that he was a true master of his craft: it belongs to the very best made in our country at the time. It displays the contemporary ideals of form in a far more harmonious and balanced way than other bindings. The classicistic tooling, in vogue since about 1800, had already grown from sober to very ornate, and full advantage was taken of the possibility to use gold-tooling and blind-tooling as well as many-coloured leather onlays. Many bookbinders added imprints of plaques to the more usual rolls and small tools, but this is not the case on this binding: the central panel has been so elaborately tooled with separate lines, that it looks like a plaque. Unfortunately Kolb's talents were granted only a short life; he died on 27 July 1843.
From a technical point of view the binding is also characteristic of its time. The block has been sewn on cords in saw cuts, resulting in a smooth back. The wide bands visible on the spine therefore do not cover the sewing supports. They are made of pieces of cardboard on an inlaid back that comes off the spine when the book is opened - a technique that is fundamentally different from the technique used before 1800. During Kolb's lifetime the Dutch bookbinders changed en masse from hand-made binding to machine binding, with an almost complete decline of the craft of bookbinding in the third quarter of the century.
Oratio de progressu physiologiae plantarum. Bookbinding made by Friedrich W.I.C. Kolb. Amsterdam, 1835. Contents: Guil. Henr. de Vriese. Amstelodami, ex typographia Civitatis Publica, 1835. 144 C 5