Saturday, 6 February 2016

A temporary, rather revolutionary binding

Bur. 03268 - Pascal, Blaise, 1623-1662: Les provinciales : ou, Lettres de Louis de Montalte  - Paris : Renouard, 1815

The collection of Bishop Thomas Burgess the founder of St David’s College is the working library of a scholar, it is not that of a book collector or a connoisseur.  Burgess was clearly buying books throughout his life, both contemporary and antiquarian, to support his academic interests.  Bur. 03268 is just the sort of book you would expect to find in his library, a copy of the letters of Blaise Pascal the controversial seventeenth century philosopher and theologian, who wrote under the nom de plume Louis de Montalte.  It is in French and was printed in Paris in 1815 in the year that Napoleon Bonaparte returned to the city from his exile in Elba.  The printer was Antoine-Augustin Renouard, a prominent Jacobin revolutionary and son of a silk merchant, who established a printing and bookselling business in the 1790s.   


Measuring just 13cm in height, the size of a modern paperback, it is still in the temporary binding it was issued in by the Renouard.  The quires of the book are not sewn on to cords, but are joined together with kettle stitches in two places halfway up the spine, a temporary method of binding that wasn't intended to last, but to hold the book together until it was properly bound.  The book has been given a cheap cover made out of a piece of Renouard's printer’s waste, a page from another book. This has been given a coat of stippled brown paste with a hog hair brush, which would give the paper cover a little more durability, but not much.  Not surprisingly the cover is now perishing.  

The cover isn't as robust and the book isn’t as well bound as a modern glued paperback and most of the books sold like this would have been rebound once purchased into a more permanent binding of the owner’s choice.  The binding doesn’t give the book block much protection and the cover and pages have become badly crumpled over the years.           


Incidentally this book is an odd volume, the second volume of a two volume set, what happened to the other volume is anyone’s guess.   

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