Thursday, November 25, 2010

Painted vellum bookbindings in the 18th century

The batiked vellum bindings of the fin-de-si├Ęcle may be unique in their blend of Eastern technique with Western style, the extensive decoration of vellum in itself was not invented in this period. Although I have not yet seen much attention to it in bookbinding specialist books, there has certainly been a wave of painted vellum bindings. I have seen several Dutch examples during the past few years in auctions (alas, no pictures for now), and it seems to be a personalised trait in protestant Christian works. While the Protestant wing is for me most known for their black 'sharkskin' bibles with eleaborate silverwork (on which a beautiful book is written by Bernard van Noordwijk: De erfenis van Kortjakje - in Dutch), there certainly has been a fine and personal way of decorating religious books, maybe inspired by the baroque (but still deeply devotional) Pietist works that were made and published in Germany during the same time.
Most of these bindings feature a central gilt emblem (stamped but not from a clear mould, as front and back sides often slightly differ) and floral motifs (mostly in red). Of course the silver (double) clasps would not lack on such special bindings.
The colours that were used feature a distinct yellow (more yellow than the usual blank skin colour), the green that was also used for almanac bindings, and fiery red for the flowers.
I hope to collect more definite material, including images.
As usual: hopefully to be continued.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lion Cachet - 'Catalogus der tentoonstelling' - 1898

Lion Cachet chose not to make a homogenous series of bindings for the (rather boring) subject of a catalogue showing objects related to the (Royal Dutch) Oranje Nassau family. Three copies for the royal family were made in purple and yellow (shown below), other copies had more orange/yellow hues.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lion Cachet - Rembrandt portefeuille (1898)

Counterpart to the portfolio of the Maris exhibition, Lion Cachet made this time more use of an almost puzzle-like grid of entwining forms. When I have a picture with good detailing I will place it here.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Couperus - De stille kracht (1900)

Perhaps the most well-known batik design for Dutch literati and other book lovers.
Chris Lebeau designed the cover, but it was in fact executed by the 'Arts and Crafts' firm of John Uiterwijk, in Apeldoorn (an enterprise that was financially backed and run by Agathe Wegerif, an influential woman in the Dutch Art Nouveau scene, and inventor of some quite handsome batik work). Marjan Groot even claims that the actual execution of the binding was in the hands of the flamboyant Wegerif, in an well-written article that can be found

It is known in five versions, including a limited edition of 40 copies on pink velvet. Several variant bindings exists, mostly grouped in four similar types, on which van Vliet in his book on the bindings of Couperus' books extensively.
Although not made in vellum, I have included it in my list here, as one of the few bindings in which the batik motifs were especially designed.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Nieuwenhuis - Hofker - Gedachten en verbeeldingen (1906)

The binding Theo Nieuwenhuis designed for Hofker's book is rather conventional, but the most interesting thing about this book is actually the multitude of versions that exists in its colourscheme. Made in a luxurious edition of 50 copies. Both versions directly above and under this text are part of the bookbinding collection at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek of The Hague.

Antiquariaat Schuhmacher presented a red vellum version (with decoration and lettering in black) on the Amsterdam Book Fair in 2006 with the following description (the price was € 9250):

The text ornaments differ from the copies on ordinary paper. In most cases copies batiked on uncoloured vellum are seen (a copy will be shown and is available on the fair). Decorations and lettering might be in different colours: we know of copies with brown, and also with blue. No copy is exactly the same owing to the batik technique. Nothing is known yet about the executor of the design, it might have been Nieuwenhuis himself. Pencil lines setting out the decoration scheme are slightly visible under the red surface; in the uncoloured vellum copies these lines are (of course) removed.

Another copy (shown above) was auctioned at Dutch auction house Burgersdijk & Niermans (and sold for 2200 € excluding buyer's premium). Their copy is monogrammed MM on the back side, which they suppose to be made for Dutch/American detective writer Maarten Maartens. Probably most copies are monogrammed on their backsides (judging by recent copies showing up in the trade - one at a late 2011 catalogue of Dutch bookseller Fokas Holthuis, and another one at the fall auction of The Hague auction house Van Stockum) - makes you wonder whether the copies were made to order from a (yet un-)known list of subscribers.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lion Cachet - Album Thijs Maris (1900)

C.A. Lion Cachet produced this folio map, which can be seen as a counterpart to the Rembrandt map of the same format. The huge size gave possibilities for an almost cloud like tree or foliage motive held in more solid coloured corners. In its decorative and repeating style it is still reminiscent of traditional batik but in a very individual take that is entirely original. Other details show more distinctively the time of its making, like the gilt type in the centre crafted in the fashionable vein of fonts around 1900.

A very well reproduced cover can be found here

Dutch antiquarian bookseller Fokas Holthuis sells this book with the following description:

Album Thijs Maris. [Haarlem, Kleinmann, 1900]. Original gilt and batiked vellum.(8) p. + 18 lvs. w. laid-down helio-engravings after work of Thijs Maris. [Printed in an edition of 75 copies]. (...) in astonishing condition. € 2500 (they earlier sold a mediocre copy for 150 €, so condition is really important for this book) Newprice of the book was 80 guilders, comparable to some € 950 today.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

West-European batik bookbindings - Dutch Art Nouveau

At the end of the 19th century a (sometimes idealized) interest of Dutch artists in the craftmanship of Indonesian artisans grew. Some learned to make resists or tried to imitate it, in its Indonesian batik form.
While batik was applied to a large array of objects, the idea to make resists on vellum or parchment became a technique in which they developed a world of their own.
Also batiked wood forms a category in which European artists deviated from Asian models, which were more focused on textiles.

Batiked vellum was used for standalone objects (small screens and other household objects), but sometimes also produced in serial form, mainly as bookbindings.
While the use of natural dyestuffs would surely fit into the ideals (often influenced by English theoreticists like Morris and Ruskin) of these artists, it remains largely unknown which wax and colours they exactly used.

At first I will try to make a list of books that had trade editions in batiked vellum, later to be followed by a list of probaly unique presentation copies.
A lot of these books are described in the standard work on Dutch Art Nouveau bookbinding, by Ernst Braches (Nieuwe Kunst en het boek), but I hope this list will be able to bring together a combination of useful sources. I will make each in a separate message, searchable by the keywords batik and vellum.