Wednesday, January 22, 2020

443. Some Zaehnsdorf Bindings for Vale Press Books

In the 1890s, Charles Ricketts had some of the Vale Press books bound by Rivière and Sons, to a design of his own. He quickly switched to another binder, Zaehnsdorf. He had a copy of The Sonnets of Sir Philip Sidney bound to his own design for the Arts & Crafts exhibition of 1899. 

Often these bindings are not signed, neither by Ricketts, nor by the bookbinder's. The firm was founded by Joseph Zaehnsdorf (1816-1896), who had come to London in 1837. By the time bookbindings for the Vale Press were executed by the firm, it was headed by the son, Joseph William Zaehnsdorf (1853-1930).

Not all Vale Press books in a binding by Zaehnsdorf were designed by Ricketts. Later collectors often brought their books to the firm, and these bindings have traditional designs.

Zaehnsdorff binding stamp in a copy of Fifty Songs by Thomas Campion(Vale Press, 1896)
Recently I found two online images of such bindings on Vale Press books and their design was identical. Both mention the name of Zaehnsdorf on the inside of the front board, and at the back they show a blind stamp that the company used for quality bindings. Frank Broomhead described the blind stamp (in The Zaehnsdorfs (1842-1947). Craft Bookbinders. Pinner, 1986, p. 73):

This mark is a small oval tool apparently used, along with similar stamps, as a quality mark on the superior bindings produced by the firm. It represents the medieval apprentice seated at the sewing frame and is taken from the wood engraving of a binder's shop by Jost Amman, which Zaehnsdorf's used in their advertising and on their stationary [...]

Binding stamps used by Zaehnsdorf
A copy of Fifty Songs by Thomas Campion (1896) was bound in red goatskin leather, a copy of Charles Ricketts's A Catalogue of Mr. Shannon's Lithographs (1902) was bound in brown goatskin leather of the same design.

Zaehnsdorff bindings on Fifty Songs by Thomas Campion 
and A Catalogue of Mr Shannon's Lithographs
Both bindings have gilt linear tooling to covers and gilt title on spine, inner dentelles with foliate gilt tooling and silk endpapers. They may have been made for one and the same collector - but they bear no bookplates - or for an exhibition of Zaehnsdorf's work. The first was for sale at Capricorn Books in Canada, the other one was offered by Roe and Moore in London.

Zaehnsdorff bindings on Fifty Songs by Thomas Campion