Aphrodite

The beautiful red leather binding with intricate designs showcases the beauty and wealth of not only the content of the book but also of the owner. 

In early times of bookbinding in France, bookbinders were goldsmiths and carvers rather than the bookbinders we consider in today's time (Fletcher). Initially, rare volumes for Kings and churches were covered in metals, enamel, and ivory embedded with jewels and gems (Fletcher).  Later on, in time, manuscripts became more popular, and these costly bindings were of gold, velvet, or satin. During this period, Kings considered leather a book of lesser value (Fletcher). Due to the invention of printing, book production increased to large numbers where it became a necessity to used materials inexpensive for covers, such as leather and other various kinds of material (Fletcher). The French began to imitate the art of tooling in gold from Europe (Fletcher). These practices have formulated a tradition for the types of coverings used for books.

Bookbinding is the process of assembling a stack of order papers folded into sections. In most cases, the outer layer of the codex is thicker than the interior to provide structure and support. The book has a hardcover with the soft interior pages inside the cover. There are several types of the binding techniques that support a particular style of reading. My rare book has a hardcover style, which is unusual kind of bookbinding style. The hardcover is constructed in various ways; sometimes the pages are gathered and sewn together with thread before the cover is added (Beaty). Other times the pages are glued together near the spinal edge before a cover is attached (Beaty). These several methods of binding are used based on the type of content is being presented to the reader. For example, my book contains short poems about Greek mythology. Therefore, the smaller in size book allows the readers to have access to the book at all times. The book is small enough to transport to different places, as well as provide comfort while reading. This book was a great size for carrying around as a source of entertainment or put on a bookshelf to refer back to for reading.

In constructing a book, all the pages are folded then the pages are placed in order. Based on my observation my rare book was printed in a folio format consisting of a gathering of leaves which forms the entire book. On the bottom of the recto of each beginning group, there are small numbers called signatures (Feeney 216). The signatures in my book are small numbers with a superscript degree symbol which demonstrates the use of these signatures to aid with assembling and verifying folded sheets (Feeney 216). From the proper investigation, there are a total of ten gatherings within the entire book. This specific numbering was used to keep track of pages when binding them together to form the book. Based on counting the numbers of leaves between each group, it seems as though the pages were folded four times producing eight leaves and 16 pages in one group, which is known as an octavo. On the spine of the rare book, are small stitching holding the book together called a headband (Feeney 216). My rare book has a headband made out of either silk or cloth material providing strength, or decoration to the spine ends (Feeney 216). This form of stitching reveals how the book is bound together by the method of sewing versus adhesion. From close observation, I noticed the pages towards the bottom of the book have uneven, jagged edges. The rough edges revealed that the previous owner bought the book with the edges still joined together. During the early 1900's most books were sold with pages left uncut, leaving the purchaser the duty of cutting the pages to read the book (Enck).

During the early 1900's, vellum and leather were traditional materials used for binding (Gourlay). Due to a high demand for commercial books, cheaper materials were needed to manufacture a vast amount of books (Gourlay). However, leather was still used but expensive because the bookbinding industry preferred to use cloth which is an inexpensive material (Gourlay). The rare book contains a bright red hardcover with embroidery on the covers. The binding is in fine condition lacking any decay or severe damage on the cover the book. The book might have been read but with care which proves its nice condition.  Of this time, France adapted many binding styles from neighboring countries (Tannery). A lot of Morocco's artisanal economy exported leather to several countries such as Spain, France, and India (Tannery). Since a vast majority of imports in France was of Moroccan leather, my rare book is most likely made out of morocco leather with an addition of red dye because it was published in France (Tannery). This bright red color is appealing to the eye which draws people's attention to pick up the book. The engravings on the front cover indicate earlier forms of decorations to the cover. The rare book has the title on the spine instead of on the front cover. This technique illustrates during that time most of the books were on a bookshelf, where the front cover is not visible therefore the title is written on the spine so people could quickly identify the book.