Xenophon: De republica

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Description of binding

Description of binding

Size of the book: 257 x162 (with sewing supports 164) x 31 mm. Dimension of the board: 257 x 158 x 6 mm
Corvina under shelfmark Cod. Lat. 422 has a red full leather binding with gilded, blind-tooled and painted decoration featuring leather onlays. Decoration of the left and right boards is identical, with the exception of the titling gilded on the right board. At the center of the boards, King Matthias’ Hungarian-Bohemian royal coat-of-arms is visible, with the crown above. The book was originally fastened with four pairs of left-to-right fastening, hooked clasp-type brass clasps. The board is made of beech wood. The bookblock, consisting of parchment quires, is sewn all along on three double white leather sewing supports with kettle stitches. The book has parchment endleaves, sewn to the bookblock. The edge is gilded and gauffered on all three sides. The endband core is white leather, attached to the quires with tiedowns; its decoration was sewn with three types of color threads, one of which is a metal thread. The codex features a compound endband. The book was restored in 1989-90 in the Restoration Laboratory of National Széchényi Library.

1. Decorating technique


The present corvina belongs to the bindings featuring the so-called emphasized central panel. The rich decoration consists of single tools. As usual for corvinas, the boards are framed by blind-tooled and gilded lines, gilded and painted leather-onlay double circles, and a knotted pattern. The central field is rectangle-shaped; its floral corner ornaments and the tulip-row frame are gilded. The central panel features an ogee-shaped, Oriental form. At the center, there is the coat-of-arms, surrounded by rich, gilded floral decoration.
Decoration of the left and right boards is identical, with the exception that at the top of the right board, there is the titling instead of the row of gilded double circles (PHILELFUS Ĩ SCENOFŌTE).

Detailed description of decoration

The outermost frame, running on the edge of the board, consists of blind-tooled lines (formed by using one triple and one single line). The next frame is composed of gilded leather-onlay double circles; six to seven leather-onlay double circles, painted blue, are arranged in a floral shape at the mid-section of the board sides. On the left board, the edges of golden circles peep out from below the blue double circles. Then follows a thick, blind-tooled line running around in the shape of a rectangle. The area between the line and the central field is filled with densely placed blind-tooled, straight and arched notched knotted patterns and tiny circles, which were originally turquoise-blue (at the fraying, the yellowish color of the leather becomes visible). Along the shorter edges of the board, this frame is thicker, while on the longer edges, it is thinner. The central field is ornate, colorful; all of its elements are gilded, silvered or painted. The rectangle-shaped central field is framed by a gilded line; its corner ornaments are decorated with gilded floral-tendrillar motifs (Italian pitcher, tulip variations, stem, double circle). Then a richly gilded tulip frame is running around. The innermost frame of the central field and the outer frame of the central panel both consist of double circles painted green. At the corners of the central field, the double circles are arranged in a triangular shape. Giving a different pattern, the double circles forming the shape are painted green, or are gilded. The inner, gilded tulip frame of the central field and the central panel are meeting, and the area between them is bordered by the double circles painted green.

The central panel features an ogee, Oriental form. It is framed by a tulip row bordered by gilded lines, with a five-petal rosette, each, at the top and bottom peaks and at the mid-section of the sides. Tulips are running from the peaks towards the side rosettes. Then follows a frame of blue, leather-onlay double circles. The core of the central panel is framed by a gilded line, and the surface is filled with a set of motifs consisting of gilded single tools. The center of the board features a quadrifid coat-of-arms: in the second and third fields, there is a single-tooled double-tailed (Bohemian) lion, facing left, while in the other two fields, there are four cuts, respectively. There is a gilded crown stamp above the coat-of-arms. The frame of the coat-of-arms and the bottom of the crown are painted, and a microscopic study has shown grains of blue paint in it. The currently perceptible blackness of the cuts in the coat-of-arms suggests that originally it must have been silvered. From the center, a system of luxuriant tendrillar floral motifs is growing out in four directions, arranged systematically, symmetrically on the vertical and horizontal axes. Components include tulip and leaf variations, the connecting stems, as well as tiny space-filling drop forms, double circles.

The double-circle frame of the right board runs underneath the titling on the fore-edges. The spine is decorated with blind tooling. Spine fields are framed by triple lines. Triple lines form a diamond-like pattern within the fields, and there are five-petal, full rosettes in the diamonds. Shaping of the sewing supports was affected during restoration.

2. Binding technique

2.1 Board

2.1.1 Covering

The book was made of goatskin; it has a red full leather covering. It features mitered corners, which is indicated by scratch marks on the boards. The turn-in has pared edge.

2.1.2 Board
Mitered corner and the trace of its shaping on the board

The boards are made of beech wood. They are roughly and grossly wrought. On the inner face of the board, there are well-visible tool traces.
Steep external bevels can be observed along the spine edge in its full thickness; on the inside, it is straight. There are internal bevels along the three edges, while the outer face is straight.
Shallow recesses were cut into the left board to accommodate the straps, while on the right board the shallow recesses also served to accommodate the fastenings.
Endings of the leather straps of the sewing supports extending beyond the spine were laid in recesses on the outer face of the wooden boards, and fixed onto the board with two treenails.
Part of the endband core extending beyond the spine is covered by leather.

2.2 Spine

The book has a tight back; it features three duplicated double sewing supports. During restoration, new spine leather was wrought under the existing original fragments; the caps are newly created. No impressions of the tying-up of cords are visible.

Well-wrought sewing supports on the spine

2.3 Fastenings

Originally, the book was fastened with four pairs of left-to-right fastening, hooked clasp-type clasps. Straps and clasps are both fixed beneath the leather covering, hidden, so the composition of the board decoration is not disrupted. The clasp straps were made of leather, but only a small fraction of them survived under the covering; they were probably folded. The nails fixing the strap protrude on the turn-in.
Parts of the brass clasps on the right board are hidden under the covering. They fit in shallow recesses.
At the head, traces of previous chain fastening are visible on both the outer and the inner faces of the right board. The greenish discoloration on the inner face of the wooden board suggests that copper must have been used. The one-time nail of the fastening element had left rust on the endleaf. When the chain was put on the book, the endleaves had not been pasted down.

2.4 Titling

At the very top of the right board, there is a gilded titling: PHILELFUS Ĩ SCENOFŌTE, framed by a thick gilded line. The letters had been tooled one by one into the leather. This is verified by an uneven spacing, slightly stumbling letters and the incised line used to facilitate fitting.

Detail of titling on the right board

2.5 Bookblock

2.5.1 Composition of the textblock

The book was sewn all along on three double white leather sewing supports with kettle stitches. Endings of the leather straps extending beyond the spine were laid in recesses carved on the outer face of the wooden boards, and they were fixed with two treenails each. The gatherings consist of four sheets. At the folding of the sheets, incisions used to facilitate sewing can be detected. The photo taken before restoration shows a white lining, which is only slightly wider that the width of the spine. During the restoration carried out in 1989 and 1990, the textblock has been re-sewn, with keeping the original sewing support places and kettle stitches.

Fastening of the textblock to the board

The edge is gilded and gauffered on all three sides.

2.5.2 Endleaves

The endleaves at the left board are sewn one-fold parchment leaves.
The endleaves at the right board are sewn one-fold parchment leaves, the first leaf of which is cut off.
The endleaves have the same size as the leaves of the textblock.

Gilded and gauffered head-edge
2.5.4 Bookmark

There is no bookmark.

2.6 Endband

The endband core is white leather that had been attached to the textblock in a separate session from sewing, in a way that tiedowns were made in the middle sheet of each gathering. During the restoration carried out in 1989 and 1990, the endbands were detached and then attached again. Under the fastening thread of the current endband core, at approximately half to two thirds of the distance between the sheet edges and the kettle stitch, holes previously used for the tiedown of the endband core can be detected. The connection of the endband cores with the board cannot be examined because of the leather covering.

The book features compound decorative stitches; the pattern is provided by the alternation of green and flesh-colored multiple silk threads and two metal threads corroded to greenish color. Based on analogies, the metal thread is a trip cut from cupriferous silver foil, gilded on one side, and wrapped around a yellow silk gut thread. S-twist embroidery threads were used.

3. Conservation

The book was restored by Mrs. László Ballagó in 1989 and 1990 in the Restoration Laboratory of National Széchényi Library. Missing parts of the sheets were filled out with parchment. On the edges of two sheets (sheets 16 and 31), parchment filling was attached by sewing, using the existing holes. Johannes Fabri ‘s ex libris was lifted up from the board and it was pasted down by a flap in front of the endleaves at the left board. Then it was followed by the hand-written entry on restoration and library shelfmark label. Using the original sewing holes, Mrs. Ballagó has re-sewn the quires along the original sewing supports. The endabands were sewn back with leather inserts. The cover leather was supported at the spine and at the turn-ins.
An entry written in ink attests to the fact that the book underwent restoration in 1910 as well. („Dorsi voluminis summa et infimo pars restaurata mense Nov. a. 1910/Trick[?]/Beer). The spine repair has been removed during restoration carried out in National Széchényi Library. Repair of the torn endleaves at the left board must have been done at the same time.

Restoration documentation (in Hungarian) (pdf)