Chemise binding

Dark brown morocco, blind-tooled (inner cover) over wooden boards. Chemise of velvet (outside), dark brown-carmine fading to lavender-red, and of lavender-red silk (inside) with trimmings and pellets in red and gold thread; silver fastening. The chemise, of which the overhanging part is c. 2.5 cm all around, is only tied to the binding by its fastening.

The chemise binding might be called the refined, textile version of the Hülleneinband. Instead of one covering (leather or textile) it has two, of which the outer textile covering has supple flaps all around. The nails of the fastening are the only means of attachment of the chemise to the binding. As the lining over the insides of the covers continues into the shoulders, it would be extremely difficult to unfasten the chemise. The second covering has disappeared in almost all cases and this will certainly be due to the fact that textile is a very vulnerable material. Its makers may even have foreseen this problem, and this would explain the blind-tooling on the inner covering of this binding, which would, of course, only be fully visible without the chemise.

Chemise bindings are even rarer than Hülleneinbände: there are only seven extant items. Although no Dutch originals have survived, they must have been especially popular in the Netherlands with the upper middle classes and the nobility. They are depicted on many panel paintings and miniatures from the Flemish and Northern Netherlandish school. A good example is the binding held by Mary on the polyptych of the Adoration of the Lamb in St. Bavon in Ghent, by Jan and Hubert van Eyck. Chemises are mostly found in the hands of the Virgin and other female saints, which indicates that the books must have been meant especially for the private worship of ladies.

The manuscript in the chemise binding is a Book of Hours which, judging from its decoration, must have been made in Valencia. The miniatures have been executed by two artists. The most talented of the two painted the Annunciation at the beginning of the Hours of the Virgin, reproduced here on the opposite page. His style reveals a strong influence of fifteenth-century Flemish panel painting, as can be seen, for instance, in the hairstyle - smooth hair across the head and fanning out below - and the sumptuous hang of the folds in the gowns.

Chemise binding. Valencia?, c. 1460. Book of Hours. Vellum, 167 leaves, 150 x 100 mm. Prov.: Nico Israel's antiquarian bookshop, Amsterdam, 1988. 135 J 55, fol. 13v-14r

Chemise binding.Valencia?, c. 1460. Book of Hours. Vellum, 167 leaves, 150 x 100 mm. Prov.: Nico Israel's antiquarian bookshop, Amsterdam, 1988. 135 J 55, fol. 13v-14r


Vriendschap in vereniging. Den Haag 1988, no. 1
J. Storm van Leeuwen, 'The well-shirted bookbinding', in: Theatrum orbis librorum. Liber amicorum presented to Nico Israel. Utrecht 1989, p. 277-305
Zeldzaam en kostbaar. Den Haag 1992, no. 3.