Manufacturer and builder 1, 1892

The bookbinder's craft was at its zenith just before the invention of printing; it has waned since, because nobody would care nowadays to give such prices as were cheerfully paid for books in the days when it took twenty-five months of a patient scribe's work to produce one copy of the Bible. The bindings of such xostly books were works of art. Milan first, we are told, acquired a reputation for its bindings of Spanish leather, arabesqued and gilt, which superseded the old-fashioned bindings of wood, metal, or ivory; but until the close of the fifteenth century the bindings of presentation volumes and of the church books used on the high altars of cathedrals were mostly of solid gold or silver. Bruges has produced some beautiful works of this description, likewise bindings in cloth of gold wrought with silk of many colors. At Ypres, the great cloth mart of North Europe, were first made plain bindings of cloth, embroidered more or less; but these were used only for small volumes of jests and ballads and for the horn-books out of which the children in noble families learned their letters. Venice had a name for its bindings in ivory and woods from the East; Florence, like Ghent in Flanders, abounded in brass artificers, and produced brazen bindings gilt or silvered, each one the work of a master craftsman, for none ventured to make book covers who were not skilled with their tools; but the most gorgeous bindings of all that were made before the invention of printing came from Rome. Here the guild of Italian goldsmiths had its chief hall; and there was always a sure sale for rich bindings of wrought gold, seeing that the kings and potentates who came to visit the Papal See invariably gave and received presents of splendid books.

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