A Somber--Yet Particularly Lustrous--17th Century Binding


(London: Printed by Edward Jones for Edward Pawlet, 1696; Oxford: At the Theatre, 1700). 192 x 120 mm. (7 1/2 x 4 1/2"). 12 p.l., 165, [1] (blank) pp., [1] leaf (ads); 12 p.l., Two separately published but related works in one volume. Later printing of the first work; Seventh Impression of the second work.

LOVELY ENGLISH SO-CALLED "SOMBER" BINDING of black morocco elaborately tooled in blind, covers with a modified "cottage roof" design, with central checkerboard of nine squares between triangular "roof" above and below, azured triangles at corners, all compartments containing delicate floral tools, raised bands, spine compartments blind-tooled with lilies, marbled endpapers, all edges black (neat older repair to head of spine). Each work with extra engraved allegorical title page. Wing A-1130, A-1148; ESTC R3415, R15532. ◆One-inch split to head of rear joint, corners and joints just a bit rubbed, internally just a little mild foxing and faint browning at edges, but quite an excellent copy, the text clean and fresh, and the binding entirely sound, quite lustrous, and with well-preserved decoration.

This work, containing a pair of anonymously published 17th century texts instructing readers of both sexes on proper conduct and pious living, is bound in a particularly pleasing "somber" binding, displaying an appropriately restrained design meant to match the content of the text. First published in 1660, "The Gentleman's Calling" offers advice on industry and genteel behavior, and names five "advantages" that must be considered--Education, Wealth, Time, Authority, and Reputation. "The Ladies Calling," following in 1673, is a classic exposition of the traits of a virtuous woman--modesty, meekness, compassion, affability, and piety. The first part of this work discusses each of these qualities in detail, while the second part considers how they may be exercised in the stages of a woman's life, from virgin to wife to widow. Both these works were inspired by an enormously popular earlier tract entitled "The Whole Duty of Man," first published in 1657 and described by DNB as a compendium of "sober, orthodox, common-sense advice pitched at the level of ordinary Anglican parishioners." Authorship of all these pieces is usually attributed to the Anglican cleric and Oxford professor of theology Richard Allestree (1619-81), who published a number of tracts and collections of popular sermons. Decorated without any kind of gilding, the so-called "somber" binding was a design used on books of devotion or otherwise especially sober volumes of the 17th and 18th centuries. ("Eikon Basilike," written as a tribute to Charles I and issued in the somber days following his beheading, is often found bound this way.) Our binding is a particularly pretty example of this style, featuring numerous floral tools and sections of squares and triangles that appear almost "stitched" together through the use of small dotted rolls. Though there is no indication of previous ownership, the feminine pattern here--reminiscent of a piece of embroidery or patchwork quilt--suggests that it may have been bound for a female owner. It is ironic that this binding--which was meant to be so somber--is, in fact, extremely lustrous even to this day.

Price: $2,500.00