Archive for the Books Category

Vellum

Posted in Books, Glossary with tags , , , , , , , on February 22, 2010 by incunable

Vellum is mammal skin obtained most commonly from calves and sheep, though it can also be produced from other animals such as goats, pigs and horses.  Unlike leather, vellum is untanned, and is distinctly identifiable by its whitish color and smooth taut texture.  Because of its strength and durability, vellum has been used throughout history for printing, writing and book binding.  It can withstand extreme wear, but one of the drawbacks of using vellum as a book binding material is its tendency to shrink.  Early binders compensated for this by adding clasps to their bindings, which held the book firmly closed and helped to prevent the covers from warping due to shrinkage. The clasps also worked to prevent vellum pages from curling.  The volume shown here, in its original vellum binding, contains a series of religious moral plays written by Don Pedro Calderon (1600-1681).  Calderon was one of the most important dramatists from the golden age of Spanish theater.  This edition, which includes simple ball and loop clasps, was printed by Manuel Ruiz de Murga in Madrid in the year 1717.

Gauffered Edges

Posted in Books, Glossary with tags , , , , on February 4, 2010 by incunable

Gauffering describes the act of applying a patterned decoration to the text block edges of a book.  This type of ornamentation is used most often on books with gold or gilded edges.  The example shown is a copy of The Poetical Works of John Dryden, which has been gauffered with a rope and star pattern using heated metal stamps and rollers.

London Cries and Public Edifices

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , on February 3, 2010 by incunable


This rare volume advertises the historical attractions of 1840s London as well as the various street vendors found within the city, and the wares they plied.  The pages contain descriptive passages along with sketches created by John Leighton, whose pen name was Luke Limner.  Found within many of the sketches is the artist’s cleverly hidden monogram.  The initials JL appear on a broadside hanging from a nearby wall in one image, and in another image they are ornately embossed on the capital of a wooden column.  Books and prints similar to this, documenting the rhetoric of London hawkers, have been produced for centuries.  Though you are more likely these days to see a fish and chips vendor in London– knife grinders, broom makers, sellers of mussels and roasted corn, are still a common sight on the streets of many Asian cities.

There is no copyright date present but research indicates it was originally published in 1847.  The front endpaper is inscribed,

“For Mother-  London, October 8th, 1875.”

Other titles attributed to Limner include:

“The ancient story of the old dame and her pig”
“Our tom cat and his nine lives”
“Money: how old Brown made it, and… spent it”