The Atlas of Early Printing

The Fifteenth Century Book

Image of Fifteenth Century Book

1490S: Binding

Previous - 1490: Printing the Scriptores Historiae Augustae
Next - 1490s: Decoration

It was common for books to be sold by a printer in loose sheets, meaning the gatherings were not sewn together and the binding was yet to be applied, although books could occasionally be sold in some form of paper wrapper. The binding that currently exists on Iowa's copy of Scriptores Historiae Augustae was probably done by either the first or second owner, within twenty years of the book's printing and purchase.

Our volume is what is called a "half-binding," where leather covers the spine and only part of the boards that form the covers. The leather was stamped with decoration by the binding workshop using tools. This binding workshop used at least 30 tools. Two of the tools, a stag and a foliated staff, are unusual because they resemble tools of Nuremburg binders, rather than Italian. However, the signs of German influence in the bindings make sense for "Bindery B," as they were possibly located near the Austrian border. Our book also has 2 clasps to hold it closed.

Image of Early Book Binding

The bindings of this group are all found on books of Belluno interest or with an early Bellunese owner (perhaps the Marcus Perfumus who wrote his name in the book). The imprints suggest the books were purchased between 1490 and 1510. Since our book was printed in 1490, it is possible there was an owner (or owners) prior to the Pillones. It is possible that the first owner may not have had the book bound, or that it was rebound when the Pillones purchased it. See the ownership sections for more detail.


Next - 1490S: Decoration