Philostratus: Heroica

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Description of binding

Description of binding

Size of the book: 366 x 233 x 75 mm. Dimension of the board: 366 x 233 x 9 mm.

Corvina under shelfmark Cod. Lat. 417 has a reddish brown full leather binding with gilded, blind-tooled, painted decoration, featuring leather onlays. The binding was made for Ulászló, King of Hungary. With the exception of the coat-of-arms illustrations, ornamentation of the left and right boards is identical. In the center of the boards, Ulászló’s coats-of-arms are displayed. The book was originally fastened with four pairs of right-to-left fastening, hooked clasp-type brass clasps. The board is made of oak wood. The bookblock, consisting of parchment quires, is sewn all along on three double white leather sewing supports with kettle stitches. The material of the endleaves is also parchment; endleaves are sewn to the bookblock. The edge is gilded and gauffered on all three sides. Endband core had originally been white leather, which was replaced during repair. The book was restored in 1981-82 in the Restoration Laboratory of National Széchényi Library.

1. Decorating technique


Structure of the decoration of the corvina binding is architectonic. In contrast to the bookblock contained within, the binding was not made for King Matthias, and it was not made during his lifetime. The structure of its decoration and certain motifs are reminiscences of late corvinas made for King Matthias. The decoration is made up of single tools. Tulip, leaf, architectonic element and double circle tools are all different from the ones that can be seen on the Matthias corvinas; they are their re-cuts.

Binding decoration consists of gilded, painted and blind-tooled components.

Ornamentation of the left and right boards is identical. The central architectonic decoration is surrounded by lines and knotted pattern.

Detailed description of decoration

Blind-tooled triple lines are running around at the edge of the board. (Due to damages to the cover, it can only be assumed that the lines, currently visible at some places, had been there on all four sides.) At the head and the tail, blind-tooled double circle onlays are arranged into groups of four. (Leather is missing at the spine and in the front.) Then again (currently incomplete) blind-tooled triple lines are running around. Just like in the case of the Matthias corvinas, the knotted pattern is wider at the head and the tail. Its formation, however, is different; it had not been formed by small, diverse tools, but by pressing one single tool several times next to each other, thus forming one row or two rows.(Microscopic studies revealed the presence of blue color.) There are small leather, double circle onlays amid the knotted pattern. Knotted pattern is divided from the architectonic decoration by blind-tooled triple lines and a green single line. In the upper corners of the central field, seven double circles are arranged in a floral form. The rest of the central field is filled with the architectonic decoration. Bottom of the aedicula/portico base consists of gilded acanthus and palmette single tools, while the upper part features upside-down tulip heads, which are gilded and painted blue. The pillars and pillar heads are decorated with gilded plant motifs. The two pillars are connected by a gilded tulip garland. In the bottom row of the ledge, there are gilded double circles and diamonds alternating; in the second row small tulips, while in the third row larger tulips are lined up. A gilded leaf garland is hanging from the ledge. Ornaments of the lunette are gilded, and the part between the motifs is painted green (microscopic study revealed the presence of green and blue colors here.) There is a six-petal flower at the center of the lunette, surrounded by circles and tulips, and all of this is surrounded by a leaf wreath; the rest is filled with tulip variations, circular flower, leaves and connecting stems and double circles. It is framed by an array of double circle onlays and a green line; there is a leaf at the peak, and there are two six-petal flowers, respectively, at the bottom and at the top. Coat-of-arms, with a gilded crown above, is located at the center of the board, between the two pillars. A blind-tooled eagle stamp is pressed in the middle of the coat-of-arms on the left board. On the right board, in the second and thirds fields of the coat-of-arms, a double-tailed (Bohemian) lion facing right is displayed.

On both boards, a blind-tooled scrolling leaf ornament is running along on the side adjacent to the spine, which had been applied to the book as a spine repairing leather of secondary use. Part of it was removed during conservation in National Széchényi Library.

There is no titling.

2. Binding technique

2.1 Board

2.1.1 Covering

Originally, the book had a reddish brown full goatskin covering. During the restoration in National Széchényi Library, the book was given a full calfskin binding, on which fragments of the original binding were pasted back.

2.1.2 Board

Photographs taken before restoration show that the material of the wooden board is oak wood; currently it is under cover.

Before the book arrived in National Széchényi Library, the front part of the right and left boards (on some 2-2,5 centimeters) had been completed, consequently, no recesses to accommodate the clasps and straps, or bevels can be detected on this section. Based on the surviving original components, it can be stated that the boards feature internal bevels at the head and the tail (based on this, the boards must have had external bevels, too). Clasps and straps were sunk into the level of the board, and full-width recesses to accommodate them were cut on the edge of the board as well.

The wooden boards feature steep external bevels along the spine edge; the inner face of the boards is even.

Ends of the leather straps of the sewing supports extending beyond the width of the spine were led into a channel on the outer face of the wooden boards; they were fixed with two nails each (based on photos taken during restoration, the material cannot be identified).

Ends of the leather straps of the endband cores lie at 45-degree angle in channels. Method of fixing cannot precisely be identified on the basis of the photographs.

2.2 Spine

Originally and currently, the book has had three double leather sewing supports. The spine was repaired on two occasions. Formerly a brown, blind-tooled spine leather, decorated with scrolling leaf ornament, had been pasted to the book. During the restoration in National Széchényi Library, only the parts located on the board were spared, and new reddish brown calfskin was pulled on the spine.

2.3 Fastenings

Originally, the book must have been fastened with four pairs of right-to-left fastening, hooked clasp-type clasps (the direction of fastening is different from the direction characteristic of this clasp-type). Only the clasp at the head on the left board survived, under the leather cover; the clasp can be seen only on the photograph taken before restoration.

At the head of the right board, holes are visible at the place of the strap, from which we can conclude that, unlike in case of other Matthias corvinas, the strap was not hidden under the leather covering, but it was fastened to the board with a decorative nail.

2.4 Titling

There is no titling.

2.5 Bookblock

2.5.1 Composition of the textblock

According to the restoration documentation, the textblock was originally sewn along three double white buckskins. However, during a previous intervention, the sewing supports were replaced by cord. Restorers of National Széchényi Library used leather straps for re-sewing.

Incisions made to help sewing can be detected at the folding of the sheets.

In the textblock, sheets consisting of five and three pairs of leaves alternate regularly. The textblock begins and ends with a sheet consisting of five pairs of leaves.

Under the initials, fluffy parchment was evened; traces of the tools are clearly visible.

2.5.2 Edge

Edge of the book is gilded and gauffered on three sides.

2.5.3 Endleaves

The endleaves are made of parchment. Due to several repairs, the original structure of the endleaves cannot precisely be identified.

Endleaves at the left board are sewn to the sheets, currently consisting of a lining parchment paste-down and a paper flyleaf; the two are attached by a sewing guard applied to the opening. The lining parchment paste-down displays entries and label indicating 19th and 20th century collection property. The flyleaf is lined from two layers. The layer facing the board contains entries, its material is parchment, undersize in relation to the textblock. Most probably, it was part of the original binding (the earliest proprietor entry originates from 1513, from Johann Gremper.) The layer of the flyleaf facing the textblock is of the same size as the textblock, its material is laid paper.

The endelaves at the right board consist of parchment leaves, sewn to the sheets and prepared for writing by ruling. Currently, the endleaves are made up of one-fold leaves and the lining parchment paste-down folded over them. The folding-over is pasted to the textbook.

2.5.4 Bookmark

There is no bookmark.

2.6 Endband

Endband core was white leather led into the channel running at a 45-degree angle on the external surface of the board. When the book was re-sewn in National Széchényi Library, the brown leather base was fastened to the textbook by making tiedowns in the middle sheet of each gathering with a natural color thread.

New endbands were sewn to the booklock during restoration.
New endbands were sewn to the booklock during restoration.

3. Conservation

The book was restored in 1981-82 in the Restoration Laboratory of National Széchényi Library (NSZL) by Éva Fodor. During restoration, the book was detached to sheets, the leaves were cleaned dry, and missing areas were completed. The textblock was re-sewn in line with the original sewing technique, based on the sewing support endings found in the wooden boards. New endbands were sewn. A wood restorer working outside NSZL repaired the previously completed wooden boards. The surviving clasp was restored to the wooden board. The opening of the endleaves was strengthened by parchment and Japanese paper endleaf guards. A parchment fragment was found in the inner face of the left board, which was not restored to the book. The Viennese shelfmark label, soaked off from the endleaves at the left board, was pasted back to its original place. A fragment of Johannes Fabri’s printed ex libris was found pasted on the right board, which was placed back with flap. As a photo taken before restoration shows, the ex libris had been pasted upside down on the right board, under the endleaves. The book was given a new full, reddish brown calfskin binding.

The textblock had already been re-sewn to cord sewing supports during a previous restoration, performed presumably in Vienna. The second leaf of the endleaves at the left board must have been lined then. Brown, blind-tooled goatskin, decorated with a floral-motif roll, had been pulled on the spine. No endband had been sewn.