Edited by Giles Mandelbrote and Willem de Bruijn, 2014


In this collection of essays, six distinguished authorities on the history of book-collecting and the ownership and use of books, and the history of bookbinding, deal with significant aspects of the Arcadian Library’s holdings from these varied perspectives.

Fine books have always been enjoyed as physical objects with a value over and above their purely intellectual and cultural purpose, and owners have long employed the finest craftsmen to embellish them. The scholarly essays in this volume pay tribute to an ancient tradition of connoisseurship, exemplified by the Arcadian Library, in which admiration for scholarship and learning in books is blended with a keen appreciation of their aesthetic qualities and historical associations. An important integral feature of this volume is the large quantity of specially commissioned photographs, making available a wealth of comparative evidence and new examples of particular bindings, details of decoration, inscriptions and marks of ownership.

A short introduction to this volume provides a bibliographical and historiographical context, situating this collection within the expanding field of historical studies exploring copy-specific information about bindings and about marks in books, the use of material evidence in social and intellectual history, and the evolving interest in the history of collecting and taste, the history of ownership and reading practices and of the uses of books.

The two opening essays, by Alastair Hamilton and Giles Mandelbrote, survey, respectively, notable European and British provenances, including royal, princely, aristocratic and learned owners, celebrated later collectors, and some remarkable annotated copies and copies associated with their authors. These essays not only document the range and depth of the Library’s resources, but also throw new light on the history of collecting.

Turning to bindings, P.J.M. Marks describes and analyses a wide range of European decorative bindings, with particular emphasis on early German bindings, French work from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, and the production of nineteenth-century England. Anthony Hobson examines three magnificent sixteenth-century bindings à la fanfare, identifying them as the work of an exceptionally talented binder in the milieu of Gommar Estienne in Paris, and situating them in the context of the arabesque ornament and fanfare style of decoration.

The Arcadian Library also possesses some interestingly homogeneous sequences of early ‘trade’ bindings, and the authors of two further essays make good use of these to draw new conclusions about the history of binding and of the historical use of books. John-Paul Ghobrial studies the products of the famous Melkite monastery at Shuwayr in the Lebanon (which flourished from the early eighteenth to the late nineteenth centuries) and reveals the mix of European and indigenous influences that moulded the style of the local binders. Nicholas Pickwoad examines a range of commercial binding structures and materials, deploying close physical inspection and forging a precise terminology to reveal careful craftsmanship and technical innovation in the making of even the cheaper temporary bindings.

Finally, Willem de Bruijn closes this volume with a short essay on decorative endpapers, highlighting some particularly attractive examples that can be found in the Library’s collection.


Alastair Hamilton: Princes, Ministers and Scholars: Some non-English Provenances in the Arcadian Library
Giles Mandelbrote: Some Earlier British Owners of Books in the Arcadian Library and their Marks of Ownership and Use
Anthony Hobson: Three Bindings à la fanfare and the Origins of the Fanfare Style
P.J.M. Marks: Selected European Decorated Bookbindings in the Arcadian Library
John-Paul Ghobrial: The Ottoman World of Abdallah Zakher: The Bindings of the Melkite Monastery at Shuwayr in the Arcadian Library
Nicholas Pickwoad: The Structures and Materials of Commercial Bookbindings in the Arcadian Library
Willem de Bruijn: Some Decorative Endpapers in the Arcadian Library


Giles Mandelbrote is Librarian and Archivist of Lambeth Palace Library, London, and an honorary Senior Research Fellow at King’s College, London.
Professor Alastair Hamilton is the Arcadian Visiting Research Professor at the School of Advanced Study, London University, attached to the Warburg Institute.
P.J.M. Marks is a curator at the British Library.
Anthony Hobson is an independent scholar and historian of the book.
Dr John-Paul Ghobrial is a University Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow in Early Modern History, Balliol College, Oxford.
Professor Nicholas Pickwoad is the Director of the Ligatus Research Centre at the University of the Arts London.
Dr Willem de Bruijn is a Research Associate at the Arcadian Library.

Review Highlights

to come

Sample Text

Introduction: In an earlier volume of this series, The Arcadian Library: Western Appreciation of Arab and Islamic Civilization (2011), Alastair Hamilton provided a tour of the shelves of the Arcadian Library in the form of a survey of its contents. The principal theme in the formation of the Library has been the history of Levantine and Arab cultural influences upon the West, but another recurring motif has been a strong preference for special copies, fine condition, beautiful bindings and interesting provenances. In this companion volume, the focus of attention now shifts to these features. If the contents and subject matter of the Arcadian Library form its body, then—continuing the metaphor—condition and bindings correspond to its clothing, sometimes changing with fashion; and the evidence of ownership and use, the thoughts of readers in dialogue with the ideas of authors, are its vital spirit.

The Library began with the founder’s notion of forming a collection of books containing images which might show the contact and cultural exchanges over centuries between Europe and the Levant. While a distinctive emphasis on illustration has continued, the Library has also evolved into a collection of important printed texts, with remarkable strengths in travel, Turcica, science and medicine, religion, chronicles and crusading history, Spain, printing, scholarship and learning, and literature (especially the Arabian Nights). In all these aspects, the collecting vision of the Library’s founder reflects his fascination with the creative energy generated as cultures clash, merge and interact. […]

As the essays in this volume amply demonstrate, collections are the product of a particular time and place, where taste, knowledge and opportunity happen to coincide. By good fortune, the three decades beginning in the 1980s, during which the Arcadian Library has mainly been formed, have been extraordinarily fruitful for collectors in this field. Other specialist collections were also taking shape, such as those at Yale University and the Heritage Library in Doha, now part of the Qatar Foundation. The auction sales have become legendary and specialist dealers flourished. Crucial to the gathering momentum of the Arcadian Library, as its ambition and scope increased, was the role of Bernard Quaritch Ltd. Under the chairmanship of Lord Parmoor, three exceptional booksellers—Nicholas Poole-Wilson, Arthur Freeman and Rick Watson—created a forum in which astonishing acquisitions came to seem almost routine. A new department for the Arab World was created at Quaritch and headed by Robert Jones, who was instrumental in building up a number of collections, including the Arcadian, and who bought at all the important sales, from the international book trade, as well as from private sources. One such private placement was The Gulf Regional Library, acquired by the Arcadian Library in the late 1990s.

One volume in the Arcadian Library neatly encapsulates the way in which the collection has been extended and developed, building on the original vision of the Library’s founder. The Arcadian copy of the Arabic Proverbs (Leiden, 1614), edited and translated into Latin by the Dutch Arabic scholar Thomas Erpenius, contains an inscription by Erpenius presenting it to his friend the English Arabist William Bedwell. A more appropriate association is hard to imagine. Not only had Bedwell been the first person to teach Erpenius to read Arabic, during his stay in England in 1608, but in 1614 Bedwell had also bought from the printing firm of Raphelengius some of the same Arabic type which was used to print the proverbs later that year. As Alastair Hamilton observes in his essay in this volume, this presentation copy is ‘a monument to the international collaboration which characterized orientalism in early modern Europe’. But it also links two friends whose long collaboration has been central to the creation and growth of the Arcadian Library: Alastair Hamilton, whose study of William Bedwell was published in 1985, and Robert Jones, whose doctoral thesis in 1987 was entitled ‘Learning Arabic in Renaissance Europe’.

The Erpenius volume connects the past with the present: it is this compelling evocative quality as a tangible historical artefact which gives annotated and association copies a powerful emotional charge. The Arcadian Library contains numerous other copies which offer specific insights and documentary evidence, in the form of annotation or binding, and which enable us to glimpse how different owners at different times used, read, perceived and valued their books. It also offers many individual testimonies to cultural exchanges between Europe and the Middle East and a process of creative interaction over the centuries through scholarship and science, trade, travel and diplomacy.

More broadly, this volume of essays seeks to address the growing interest in the history of the book and in the story told by careful examination of multiple copies. The Arcadian Library was not assembled as a study collection for historians of binding and the book trade, or historians of the ownership and use of books, or even for historians of book collecting, but it offers a rich anthology of material evidence relating to all of these subjects. The volume makes no claim to be comprehensive—indeed, even on the shelves of the Arcadian Library itself there is rich material for further study, such as the development of pictorial cloth bindings in the nineteenth century. It is hoped, nevertheless, that these essays by leading specialists, together with the two broad surveys of provenance and a large quantity of specially commissioned photographs, providing a wealth of comparative evidence and illustration, will be a significant contribution to this field.

Some Earlier British Owners of Books in the Arcadian Library and their Marks of Ownership and Use
by Giles Mandelbrote

The Arcadian Library has been collected with a view to documenting the contact and connections between Europe and the Levant, a purpose quite different from the study of provenance. Nevertheless some common ground exists: the Library includes a core of books put together from earlier collections which themselves reflect, on the part of their owners, a serious curiosity about the Arab world. The Arcadian Library also holds some individual items which are of considerable interest and importance for their annotations and associations. More serendipitously, however, the Arcadian collection offers a rich anthology of material evidence relating to the history of book ownership and provides a cross-sectional view of the history of book collecting and the operation of the book trade, based mainly on what has appeared on the market over the past three decades.

The great collections of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

The bookplates and labels of four Anglophone collectors of the twentieth century occur with particular regularity among the books in the Arcadian Library. Harry Blackmer (1923–88) was born in Denver, Colorado, and lived much of his life in Paris, where he managed a brokerage firm, and in Athens, where he built a house in nineteenth-century Athenian style to hold his library. A keen sailor in the eastern Mediterranean, Blackmer became very interested in the transmission of classical and Byzantine culture to Europe through the Levant and he formed an important collection of books about the art, architecture, history and politics of Greece and the Levant from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Beginning in the early 1960s, he bought heavily during the 1970s and 1980s in what at first was a field in which he had relatively few serious competitors. His library was sold at Sotheby’s in 1989.

Princes, Ministers and Scholars: Some non-English Provenances in the Arcadian Library
by Alastair Hamilton

However homogeneous the Arcadian Library may be in the subjects it covers,its numerous books from countries other than England have the most varied provenances— libraries royal, princely, ducal, public and monastic, and countless collections put together by scholars and bibliophiles over the last five hundred years in an area stretching from India to the Argentine and from Sweden to Sicily. Many are from collections whose owners did not have a particular curiosity about the Islamic world, but there are some who did. The private library from which the largest number of Arcadian books come is that of Sefik E. Atabey, a businessman and merchant from Istanbul. Mainly assembled in Paris and London, it was sold at Sotheby’s from 28 to 30 May 2002 and testifies to its owner’s interest in the Ottoman Empire. Then there are the books, on various aspects of the Levant, from the collection

formed by Camille Aboussouan (b.1919), a historian and diplomat who has also acted as Lebanese ambassador to UNESCO. His library was auctioned at Sotheby’s on 17 and 18 June 1993. A number of other books in the Arcadian Library, some from the Atabey collection, have the book labels of two Greek bibliophiles with a special interest in the Near and Middle East. One is G. J. Arvanitidis and the other Panos Gratsos (d.1990), a shipping magnate with a house at Harrow-on-the-Hill and a villa and estate on the island of Ithaca. His collection, with the name of his house, Villa Skinos, on his bookplate, was sold at Sotheby’s on 27 and 28 September 1990. And the Arcadian Library also has items whose provenance points to the world of scholars—scientists, orientalists and topographers, intrigued by some aspect of the vast Islamic area. Their history, and the marginal notes some of them contain, often give them a value as documents.

Selected European Decorated Bookbindings in the Arcadian Library
by P.J.M. Marks

This article seeks to illuminate some of the significant European bookbindings which belong to the Arcadian Library, selecting items which I hope will whet the appetites of prospective researchers and alert them to the important resources held there. Certainly, a very wide variety of formats, structures, materials and decorative techniques are to be found, and so many important binders are represented that examples from this one collection might readily be used to illustrate the later history of western decorated bookbindings.

Until industrial methods were developed in the nineteenth century, all bindings were made by hand, and many were ‘bespoke’, that is, bound to the requirements of a particular owner. This potentially provides a lot of information about the taste and status of the purchaser (for example, is the work cheap or expensive? Is it simple and plain—or highly decorated work, incorporating a coat of arms?), as well as about his priorities (by identifying particular manuscripts and texts which have received special or costly bindings). The craftsman’s profile is less easy to determine because the

level of skill exercised in the construction is not always obvious and the decoration is often generic in style. David Pearson suggests that ‘it was generally not part of the culture to express individuality through the obvious medium of distinctive graphic effects’, and though the binder was at liberty to decorate the covers of a book— to make it more attractive, and therefore more profitable—the primary function of the binding remained what it had always been, to preserve the book’s contents. Despite this, the materials used and the techniques employed can also tell us a great deal about the state of the craft itself.

To put the bindings in context, I have described them by country. The use of some proper names, notably ‘Germany’ and ‘Italy’, is not historically correct (these countries had no diplomatic existence until the nineteenth century) but these designations have been adopted for the sake of simplicity.

Three Bindings à la fanfare and the Origins of the Fanfare Style
by Anthony Hobson

French bookbinders were slow to respond to the new styles and techniques introduced in Italy during the Quattrocento. Until the 1530s most bindings continued to be decorated in blind with a predominantly Gothic grammar of ornament. Awareness of Italian models brought about a revolutionary change. From about 1540 Parisian binding advanced to a climax of creative brilliance during the reign of Henri II. Paris became the acknowledged centre of fine binding, a position it claims with some justification to have retained until the present day.

This flowering could not have taken place without the presence of talented craftsmen, and the royal binder, Gommar Estienne, has more claim to be considered a genius than any other in bookbinding history. But talent alone would not have sufficed if it had not been for other favourable circumstances. The first was patronage. François I, although not well educated (he could not read Latin), had a passionate interest in, and admiration for, literature. He brought together the scattered royal

book collections to the château at Fontainebleau that he was enlarging and embellishing, and added major groups of Greek and Near Eastern manuscripts assembled by his agents in Italy. A programme of rebinding the manuscripts was continued on an even more lavish scale by his successor. Henri II, though less of an enthusiast for learning than his father, was at least his equal in his fondness for lavish display. The Bibliothèque nationale de France owns about 750 volumes more or less splendidly bound for the royal library during Henri II’s reign. Courtiers and high officers of state followed the king’s example and acquired richly decorated bindings: the Constable Anne de Montmorency, the Master of the Horse Claude Gouffier, François duc de Guise, the cardinal of Lorraine and the royal mistress, Diane de Poitiers, as well as lesser figures, such as Jean Grolier, one of the Treasurers General,and Cathérine des Médicis’ secretary, Thomas Mahieu.

The Ottoman World of Abdallah Zakher: Shuwayr Bindings in the Arcadian Library
by John-Paul Ghobrial

The road to Aleppo leads through Bucharest, or at least it did for one community of Orthodox monks at the start of the eighteenth century. For it was in 1700 that Athanasius Dabbas, metropolitan of Aleppo and former patriarch of Antioch, travelled To Bucharest, where he enlisted the support of local elites for the printing of liturgical books in Arabic. In a type of collaborative effort that was made possible by Ottoman rule, Dabbas found a patron in Constantin Brancoveanu, the voivode, or governor, of Wallachia who had been appointed by the Ottomans in 1688. A new fount of Arabic type was cast under the direction of Anthim Ivireanul, head of the monastery at Snagov. Within a short time, this partnership resulted in the publication of two books: a guide to the liturgy (1701) and a Book of Hours (1702), both of which were printed in Greek and Arabic.

Technically, this was not the first time that Arabic had been printed in the Ottoman world. In 1610, the Maronite monastery of St Anthony’s in Quzhayya printed a Psalter in Syriac and Karshuni, that is to say the Arabic language written in Syriac characters.2 Further abroad, European printers had started printing in the Arabic script as early as the sixteenth century. Many of these ventures, such as Giovan Battista Raimondi’s Medici Press in Rome, eventually went out of business, owing perhaps to the capital-intensive nature of printing in the Arabic script and the fact that the demand for Arabic texts still remained relatively small in this period. The experiment at Bucharest represented, therefore, the first use of movable Arabic type in the Ottoman Empire and, therefore, an important, if underappreciated, moment in the history of the Arabic printed book.

The Structures and Materials of Commercial Bookbindings in the Arcadian Library
by Nicholas Pickwoad

A library with such a clear subject focus as the Arcadian Library will acquire bindings almost accidentally, as the necessary adjuncts to the texts which are its main purpose. Occasionally, no doubt, a particularly fine copy in a decorated binding may be preferred to a less exalted one, and there may be a preference also for editions in contemporary bindings, but even then the selection is essentially random, led by text not binding. In spite, or perhaps because, of this, the Arcadian Library not only has a good selection of the different types of binding found within the period of the printed book, from the most lavishly decorated to those which do not even have covers, but it has also acquired a few real rarities, one of which is rarer by far than most ‘fine’ bindings.

In the period of the handpress press—that is from the mid-fifteenth century up to the beginning of the nineteenth century—there were marked regional differences in the design and structures of bookbindings, and bindings whose styles can be identified with particular regions. This is important because much of the distribution of books throughout this period was often carried out with books either unbound in sheets or in inexpensive, lightweight bindings in parchment or paper covers. This was done by booksellers both to avoid investing in the cost of bindings when it was not certain that an edition would sell, and to avoid the additional shipping costs that would be incurred by the weight of a binding in boards covered with leather. In addition, a bookseller in one country could not predict the type of binding that might be required by a customer in another. There was a tendency, therefore, for books to be bound towards the end of their journey to their first owner, whose location may thus be identified by the binding. Bindings can, therefore, offer direct information about the distribution of individual editions.

Some Decorative Endpapers in the Arcadian Library
by Willem de Bruijn

Among the many decorative endpapers in the Arcadian Library we can distinguish between at least three main genres, based on the type of decorated paper that has been used in the binding: marbled endpapers, block-printed endpapers and paste paper endpapers. Marbled endpapers are by far the most common. This should not come as a surprise since marbled paper was particularly popular with the fine bindings and edition bindings which constitute the core of the collection. Some noteworthy examples include two ebru endpapers from Turkey (I say noteworthy because marbled paper first arrived in western Europe through trade with the Levant) and numerous others of European manufacture in designs as varied as their names suggest: ‘Placard’, ‘Persillé’, ‘Spot’, ‘Swirl’, ‘Old Dutch’ ....

Equally varied, but different in style, are the designs based on simple geometric or stylised floral motifs that were created for block-printed papers. In some instances the block-printing was combined with printing from hand-cut stencils, as was the case with the so-called domino papers in France. Examples of block-printed endpapers in the Library are remarkably few in number: only about a dozen titles can be said to contain historic endpapers of this type. One reason for this relative scarcity may be that this collection was assembled with a view to gathering the finest possible copies of particular books, for which block-printed paper was rarely used. Having said this, at least one example clearly shows that this was not always the case—a block-printed paper used for the endpapers of a fine copy of Marsigli’s richly illustrated L’état militaire de l’empire Ottoman (Amsterdam 1732). Another remarkable set of block-printed endpapers can be found in the French translation of the Gulistan (Paris 1704). The paper is a so-called ‘bronze varnish paper’ (Bronzefirnispapier in German), which originates in the region of Augsburg. What is more, the paper is doubled on the back with another varnish paper in green and gold. Also worth mentioning here, because undoubtedly the most mysterious of all endpapers in the Library, is one that forms part of a so-called ‘Shuwayr’ binding, the general characteristics of which are discussed in John-Paul Ghobrial’s article in this book. […]

Although it is difficult to say with certainty which techniques have been used in decorating the paper, it would seem to be a combination of stencilling for the ground layer, in pink, and block-printing for the ornamental figures on top, in brown. It is possible that the original sheet was imported from central Europe, where these techniques were in use, but a matching paper has not yet been found. The Library contains two other manuscripts from Shuwayr with endpapers made from imported European decorated paper. One is another bronze varnish paper with a small geometric pattern blocked on a veined ground in red, purple, green and yellow. The other is a brocade paper with a large floral motif blocked in red on a golden ground (now partially green, due to the oxidation of the copper contained in the pigment). Both papers have been cut, by hand, to create a decorative border typical of Islamic bindings.