Binding Aldines

Binding Aldines

Edward Worth was as interested in the book as a material object as he was in its subject matter. A connoisseur collector, he was keen to purchase rare printing and fine bindings (especially if they were contemporary with the publication). However, he and other eighteenth-century collectors also arranged for their rare books to be rebound and thus a number of his Aldines bear late seventeenth and early eighteenth-century Dutch, English, French and Irish bindings.

Front cover of 1514 Alexander of Aphrodisaeus

Front cover of 1514 Alexander of Aphrodisaeus.

If, as is the case with his edition of Alexander of Aphrodisaeus’s commentary on the Topics of Aristotle, printed by Aldus in February 1514, Worth was able to buy both a rare printing and a fine binding together, it made the purchase even more attractive. As we can see in the illustration above, his copy of Aphrodisaeus is in an early to mid sixteenth-century binding, with some tools familiar from the famous bindings of the renowned renaissance collector, Jean Grolier (1479-1565). The tool at the corners of the panel is specifically known as an ‘Aldine’ tool, used by Aldus in his own bindery and replicated many times in the Parisian binderies favoured by François I of France (1494-1547) and Grolier. Such deluxe items often bore gauffered gilt edges, as we can see in the next image.

Tail edge of 1514 Alexander of Aphrodisaeus

Tail-edge of 1514 Alexander of Aphrodisaeus.

Very few of Worth’s Aldines bear their original bindings. This is partly due to the vogue among early eighteenth-century collectors, such as Worth, for re-binding their Aldines in deluxe contemporary (in this sense early eighteenth-century) bindings. Ironically they did this as a mark of homage to Aldus, ripping off older and less decorative covers to replace them with deluxe eighteenth-century versions. One early eighteenth-century collector who clearly favoured this practice was Goswin Uilenbroek, an Amsterdam merchant in the eighteenth century, whose books came on the market in 1729.

Uilenbroek cover

Uilenbroek cover.

This text, Worth’s 1512 copy of Constantine Lascaris’ In hoc libro haec habentur. Constantini Lascaris Byzantini De octo partibus or[ati]onis lib. I. etc (which included Aldus’ Hebrew alphabet), was purchased from the Bibliotheca Uilenbroukiana sale of 1729. It bears the sale catalogue mark ‘1625’ and the entry is duly noted by Worth (or his factor – in this case William Smith), with the price 6 gulden and 6 stuivers, with an accompanying lengthy entry detailing the many parts of the work.

As we can see, the binding is certainly not original and was likely commissioned by Goswin Uilenbroek who patronised at least four binderies in Amsterdam: the Double Drawer Handle Bindery, active between 1697 and 1742; the Art Book Bindery (1705-1741); the Justitia Bindery (c.1725-1742); and the Uilenbroek Bindery (c.1705-1715), named after the collector. This cover is a very good example of the Uilenbroek Bindery’s work c. 1705-1710.

Uilenbroek tail-edge

Uilenbroek tail-edge.

The tail edge of the work is typical of Uilenbroek’s binding style. Many other collectors, if they were going to the trouble to rebind a rare item such as this, would not only have gold-tooling on the covers and spine but would also have gilt edges. Uilenbroek, whether for personal aesthetic reasons or because it was a cheaper option, preferred this mottling effect on volumes in his library. As Storm van Leeuwen (2006) argues, Uilenbroek wanted an attractive binding – but at a reasonable price.

Vandermarck cover

Vandermarck cover.

Hendrik vander Marck, the Lord of Leur and canon of Utrecht, was also an aficionado of Amsterdam binderies. Here we see his copy of Euripides’ Tragedy, published by Aldus in 1503 and bought by Worth in 1727 at the sale following vander Marck’s death. Worth paid 3 gulden and 5 stuivers for it and it came ready-bound in a style which is quintessentially ‘vander Marck’. Like a number of other items from the vander Marck collection, the Euripides bears a distinctive parchment title label, distinctive because, as Storm van Leeuwen states in his magisterial study of Dutch book-binding in the eighteenth century, vander Marck’s predilection for a white parchment label on a red morocco cover was his and his alone.

According to Storm van Leeuwen, vander Marck patronised only two binderies in Amsterdam, one named after him (c.1725-c.1756) and the other, called the Tendril- and Flower-Roll Bindery (c.1700?-1708). This particular book was a product of the ‘vander Marck’ bindery, adorned with Roll 1 of the bindery.

Brienne coat of arms

 Brienne coat of arms.

This work, the editio princeps of Grattius’ Poetae tres egregij (Venice, 1534), bears the distinctive coat of arms of the family of Loménie de Brienne: the woman arising from a tub holding a mirror portrays the legendary Mélusine, an allusion to the ancestral home of the family in Limoges. Louis-Henri de Loménie, , the owner of this work, came from a family which had experienced a steady rise to power in France during the seventeenth century. The coat of arms is that of his father, Henri-Auguste Loménie, who bought the countship of Brienne from Cardinal Richelieu. His son, Louis-Henri, Comte de Brienne (1636-98), became a counsellor of State at the age of sixteen but had a rather erratic life thereafter. He died in 1698 but his library didn’t come on the market until 1724. It was from the 1724 London sale of his collection that Worth purchased this Aldine.

English binding Nicander.

English binding Nicander

The binding on Worth’s copy of the 1523 Aldine Nicander was commissioned by him from the renowned early eighteenth-century English binder, Christopher Chapman. The fact that we know the binder’s name is a testament to the importance of Chapman as a binder in London in the 1720s for the names of most early modern binders are unknown, the style of binding being called after the collector in whose collection most exemplars are found.

Chapman was an exception to this rule. We know that he worked for both Robert Harley (1661-1624), 1st Earl of Oxford and later for his son Edward Harley (1689–1741) the 2nd Earl, and examples of his work may be found on the famous Harleian bindings. Vincent Kinane (the first librarian of the Worth Librarian) identified a number of Chapman bindings in the Worth Library. Significantly, as he pointed out in his 1997 article, ‘all but one of the bindings in the Worth group cover 15th and 16th century imprints’. A small number of these had already been bound by Chapman prior to coming to the Worth Library and this may have given the Worth the idea to bind a group of his early printings in a similar style. Clearly Worth was eager to have his rarest printings adorned by the best binder available, whether he was in Dublin or London.


Birley, Robert (1962), The Library of Louis-Henri de Loménie, Comte de Brienne and the Bindings of the Abbé du Seuil (London: The Bibliographical Society).

Hobson, Anthony (1992), Humanists and Bookbinders. The Origins and Diffusion of the Humanistic Bookbinding 1459-1559 with a Census of historiated Plaquette and Medallion Bindings of the Renaissance (Cambridge University Press).

Kinane, Vincent (1997), ‘Some red morocco bindings by Christopher Chapman in the Worth Library, Dublin’, Long Room 42, 19-25.

Storm van Leeuwen, Jan (2006) Dutch Decorated Bookbinding in the Eighteenth Century 4 vols (vol I, IIa, IIb, III) (The Hague: Hes & De Graaf Publishers).