Fifteenth Century Finishing Tools - ITALY


''deux minuscules dauphins stylisés de part et d'autre d'un jet d'eau'

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I discovered these diving dolphins on a ancient 15th century Italian binding that is perhaps from Venice. The reproduction of it can be found in the British Library Database of Bookbindings. Fortunately the Curator of Bookbindings, Philippa Marks was kind enough to send me a high resolution scan of the parts where there still remains some evidence of the tooling. We can see that it has been decorated with the so called dolphin frame that we have been discussing in the last few pages. This binding is found on a 1486 Venice printing of: Thomas Aquinas. Super primo libro Sententiarum Petri Lombardi Venice : by Antonius de Strata, de Cremona, 21 June 1486. As the dolphin motifs that make up the frame differ in some minute details from our Louis XII example of c 1510 (see below), it may be that this binding was made in Venice not long after the 1486 printing. On the other hand this binding may not have been made in Venice at that date, a lot more research is needed before we can make such pronouncements. I think that the three main imprints found here may prove to be very helpful in pinning down a date and place.

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Image courtesy of the British Library, shelfmark IB21254a.

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Comparative Diagram 1 - humanistic imprint

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In Comparative Diagram 1, I show some examples of the imprint that has been used to form the outer frame. When I first saw Nixon's 1965 rubbing of an imprint that is obviously a copy of a tool like this one, I immediately thought that the human like form incorporated into this ingenious design, will be easy to remember and recognize, i.e. you can't miss it if you are lucky enough to find another. Now in retrospect I have nick named it the "humanistic" imprint as it seems to fit with the era in which it was made, along with the the diving dolphins it is another decorative icon of renaissance bookbinding.

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Comparative Diagram 2 - Nixon 1965 rubbing EF3 vs humanistic imprint, 1486 Venice.

In Comparative Diagram 2, I show Nixon's iEF. 3 rubbing which derives from a 1501 Macrobius shown in his Plate XI, decorated with tools that may be those of Pierre Roffet, if so then this binding could date to 1521 or later, (click here for details). The EF. 3 is somewhat smaller, but closely respects the humanistic model. Such a close resemblance might also raise doubts about the 1486 date. More examples are needed!

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Comparative Diagram 3 - 1486 Venice dolphins vs 1510 Paris dolphins (Dacier 1933)

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Comparative Diagram 4 - 1486 Venice knot imprints.

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Design layout for shelfmark IB21254a

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Virtual humanistic imprint.

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