A Binding by Samuel Mearne

The Book of Common Prayer.
London: John Bill & Christopher Barker, [1662]. (12426)

The restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660 initiated the “golden age” of English bookbinding, when England’s binders were no longer content to follow continental models but strove to develop their own decorative aesthetic. The best-known figure in Restoration binding was Samuel Mearne (1624–1683). Beginning as an apprentice to binders in London in 1637, Mearne had his own bindery in London by 1653. Shortly after the fall of the Commonwealth in 1660, Mearne was appointed Bookbinder to the King, and in 1675 he and his son Charles were granted the life-long offices of Bookbinder, Bookseller, and Stationer to the King. Mearne’s duties were many: in addition to binding over 700 books for the Royal Library, every few years there was a turnover for all religious service books used in the Chapels Royal, which required the binding of hundreds of Bibles and Books of Common Prayer.

This dyed goatskin binding, one of three by Mearne in the library’s collection, bears the monogram of Charles II – two opposed C’s with palm branches, crowned – which marked it for use in a Chapel Royal. Another Book of Common Prayer of 1662 in the Huntington Library is bound almost identically to the Bridwell copy, and it is likely they both originated in the 1666 turnover of books for the Chapels Royal.

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The Seventeenth Century
A Binding by Samuel Mearne