A "Harleian" Binding
Guillelmus Durandus (1237–1296).
Rationale divinorum officiorum.
[Mainz]: Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer, 6 October 1459. Printed on vellum. (06278)
This handsome binding contains Bridwell Library’s earliest complete printed book, published in 1459 by Gutenberg’s successors in Mainz, Fust and Schoeffer. A treasure in any age, it was bound in England early in the eighteenth century by a binder who worked for one of England’s foremost collectors of early books, the second Earl of Oxford, Edward Harley (1689–1741). The style of the “Harleian” bindings is exemplified nicely by this impressive volume. Typically, they employ deep red goatskins decorated in gold with a large cusped oval or lozenge-shaped central ornament combining many small but ornate tools, and gilt ornamental rolls for the borders and turn-ins.
Although records kept by the Harleian Librarian, Humfrey Wanley (d. 1726), cannot prove that this vellum copy of the 1459 Durandus was owned by the Earl of Oxford, the tooling indicates that it was bound by Christopher Chapman (fl. 1718–1756), who bound many of Harley’s most important books, including 25 books printed on vellum that were expensively bound in 1724.