Brown calf, blind-tooled, over wooden boards. Two gilded silver clasps. We can distinguish two types of (blind-)tooling on Dutch bookbindings of the fifteenth century: one in which the covers are tooled to a panel design with lines forming diamonds and triangles - with or without tools - and one with decorations of one or more ‘panel stamps’. Contrary to the small stamps and the lines, which were tooled by hand, the panel stamps were stamped by a press. They were made of rectangular bronze plaques which had pictures in relief, sometimes gouged out but usually, as was shown by recent research, cast. Thus there might be different panels with exactly the same pictures on them, which could be used simultaneously by different binders. Usually if the same tools are found on different bindings, this is proof of their having been made in the same studio. However, this appears not to apply to panel stamps. The panel stamp on the binding shown on the opposite page is otherwise unknown, although the type as such, two rows of animals in winding foliage, was by no means unusual in the Netherlands. The date, 1497, as part of the decoration and reappearing in the clasps of the book is, on the other hand, very rare. The tooling as such is typical for the Northern Netherlands. If the size of the bindings allowed this, a binder from the Southern Netherlands would use several panels for each board, his Northern Netherlandish counterpart would use only one panel and surround it by lines and ensembles of small tools, as was also done on the binding reproduced here. Its clasps are equally remarkable. The hooks have sawn-out banderoles with the date, 1497. Hook and catch are closed by means of a little pin that is fastened to the catch by a chain. The intriguing date on the panel as well as the clasps, and its unusual construction suggest that the bookbinding was made for a special occasion.
Bookbinding, Northern Netherlands, 1497. Contents: Book of Hours. Leiden, 1497 or shortly before. Vellum, 112 leaves, 175 x 122 mm. - Provenance: A.W.M. Mensing collection, 1909. - 74 G 3