IN BEAUTIFUL ENGLISH BLACK MOROCCO
London, Apud R. Young, 1640.
8vo. pp. (264). A2, A-Q8, R2. Roman letter. Engraved title of King David, highlighted in red ink in a contemporary hand, calendar printed in red and black, woodcut initials in various sizes, occasional contemporary marginal note. Light age yellowing. A very good copy in beautiful English black morocco, c. 1670, covers blind ruled to a panel design, outer panel with blind tooled sprays of tulips and floral motifs with small bird tools, central panel entirely filled with finely worked blind tooled floral sprays, semé of small tools and birds, spine with blind ruled raised bands, blind tooled with small leaf tools, comb-marbled end papers, all edges black, joints, spine head and tail and corners somewhat worn.
Rare edition of this book of Psalms beautifully bound in a London “sombre” binding of finely worked blind tooling on black morocco. This binding is very similar in style to a binding by the “Sombre binder” illustrated in the Henry Davis gift Catalogue (vol II, 116) and shares the same tools as another “Sombre” binding in the online British library catalogue of bindings, BL Shelfmark c72e7, an Eikon Basilike printed in London in 1649. These bindings were most often made in Puritan London where ostentation was frowned upon though a dislike of display did not deter people from wanting to own sumptuous bindings on books that they would use in public. The richness of the binding was effectively disguised with this ‘black on black’ work. It is also thought that Restoration period, “sombre” bindings, using only blind stamps, were produced for periods of mourning at Court; with the great plague of 1665 and the fire of London a year later many were mourning in London.
The design, tooling, work and materials on this copy are of the highest quality. The style of the binding heavily influenced the arts and crafts movement and the tooling on this binding is reminiscent of the work of Cobbden Sanderson at the Doves Press bindery at the end of the C19. “Another fashion which first begins to be notable around 1670, and which remained in Vogue well into the first half of the eighteenth century, was a taste for ‘Sombre’ bindings, typically found on bibles, prayer books and other devotional texts.” Pearson English Bookbinding Styles, 1450-1800. A rare book of Psalms; containing the prose text of psalms and canticles without commentary and includes the “Canticum D. Ambrosii et Augustini” at the end. The engraved title page, with a portrait of King David, is altered from a plate occasionally used as a frontispiece to the Sternhold and Hopkins psalms where it has 4 lines of text below the portrait.
The Psalter was published to the order and probably at the cost of the chapel of Peterhouse, where Cosin, Master of the College, was engaged in the reformation of worship in the newly built chapel; Young was also his publisher. Dispersals of chapel furnishings were made in the 1650s, presumably as a result of religious changes following the Civil War. A number of copies bear similar annotations.
Our thanks to Scott Mandelbrote, Fellow of Peterhouse for providing this information.
STC 2367. Recording no copies outside the UK. Darlow and Moule.