52 Weeks of Fantastic Bindings: Week 1

Having been inspired by a recent conference in Oxford (9 June 2011) entitled “The place of bindings in book history and bibliography: resources and research” (sponsored by the Bodleian Libraries and Ligatus), we have decided to create a weekly post about some of the fantastic bindings found in our collections. Each week will feature an item from the Library, but will not be limited to just the Rare Books Collections, as both the Manuscript and Muniments Collections hold some wonderful examples of binding too.


Week 1: TypBD.C39BUArchbishop Ussher’s copy of his own Britannicarum ecclesiarum antiquitates (1639)

The Rare Books Collections are not typically strong in early Irish imprints, so when this item came across my desk I was a bit surprised. The Library owns two copies of Archbishop James Ussher’s Britannicarum ecclesiarum antiquitates (Dublin, 1639), a landmark text on the history of Christianity in Britain, both found in the Typographical Collection (the other at TypBD.C39BU(2)). TypBD.C39BU is unique in two ways: it has the variant red and black title page and was specially bound for Archbishop Ussher. This binding, pictured below, is of contemporary olive green goatskin featuring Ussher’s coat of arms stamped in gold on both boards contained within a panel of gold-tooled double fillet and gold-tooled fleurons to corners. Both boards have a double gold fillet and the board edges are tooled in gold, with gilt fore-edges and with the spine title stamped in gold. This is an odd find in any collection outside of Dublin, as Ussher donated his personal collection to Trinity College, Dublin. In fact, Ussher’s copies of both variants of this imprint can be found outside of Dublin: the other, having a title page printed fully in black, is bound in a very similar manner and is in the Marsden Collection, at shelfmark O5/17, of the Foyle Special Collections Library of King’s College, London.


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