BIBLE, GOSPELS, in Arabic and Latin. Evangelium Sanctum Domini nostri Iesu Christi. Ed. Giovanni Battista Raimondi. Rome: Medicean Press, 1590-91.
Median 2o (330 x 210 mm). Interlinear Arabic and Vulgate text. Arabic type, originally cut by Robert Granjon for the Roman printer Domenico Basa, and roman type. 153 woodcuts repeated from 67 blocks (about 100 x 125 mm each), some by Leonardo Parasole after ANTONIO TEMPESTA, signed with monograms. (Perfected in 1868 with the first 8 and last 2 leaves from another copy, a few marginal repairs.)
GENEVAN MOSAIC SUNK-PANEL AND PLAQUETTE BINDING: late-16th-century gold-tooled and painted brown calf, over double layers of pasteboard, with double-fillet frames painted black, gold-blocked azured arabesque corner pieces painted black and silver-grey, the field semé with small tools, a pair of lions repeated once, a pair of WINGED SPHINXES painted black and a FRENCH OVAL MEDALLION OF APOLLO AND MARSYAS impressed in gold at the head and foot of both sides, large oval compartment cut away in the center of the outer board of each cover to reveal a gold-tooled white morocco sunken inlay with hatched ornament, volutes and other small tools, masques, cherubs and a repeated PAIR OF CENTAURS painted red (in front cover), orange (in back cover), central arms block probably of Captain Basset of Languedoc, flat spine decorated with fillets and small open and hatched tools in compartments, leaf-edges gilt, (spine-ends and board-edges restored with morocco gilt, presumably by Capé and his finisher Marius Michel the elder, endpapers also replaced in the 19th century). Morocco pull-off case.
Provenance: Basset family (arms on binding). Dr. Foot has suggested several candidates with this name from various parts of France including, most plausibly because of the next identifiable owner (of whom she was unaware), Captain Basset, a late-16th-century Calvinist from Languedoc; Dr. Hobson took the owner to be François Basset (Olivier pl. 638), a Lyonnese magistrate in 1646-47, and therefore wrongly assumed that the arms piece is an onlay. Not knowing the location of the book, both binding historians had to work from catalogue reproductions -- Le duc de Caylus de Rouairoux, Languedoc (18th-century engraved armorial bookplate) -- Charles-François Capé (1806-67, bookbinder), his Paris sale by Laurent Potier, 27th January 1868, lot 10. This leading exponent of retrospective bookbinding and a sophisticated collector, recognized the importance of this astonishing binding and was undoubtedly responsible for the restoration done to it -- Giovanni Gancia (Brighton bookseller), Paris sale, 27th April 1868, lot 26. In the few months between the Capé and Gancia sales the missing leaves were made up -- Ricardo Heredia y Livermoore, conde de Benahavís, Paris sale, 22 May 1891, lot 60 -- Robert Hoe (1839-1909, first president of the Grolier Club, founder of the Club Bindery), New York sale, Anderson Auction Company, 8th January 1912, lot 222. One hundred and seventy-six historic and artistic book-bindings selected from the library of Robert Hoe (Dodd, Mead 1895) v. I, pl. 70 -- Eugène von Wassermann (founding member of the Société des bibliophiles et iconophiles de Belgique), Brussels sale, 24th October 1921, lot1064 -- Cortlandt F. Bishop (bookplate), New York sale, Kende Galleries, 7th December 1948, lot 114 ($2,300 to Offenbacher).
A FAMOUS RENAISSANCE BINDING, from some of the choicest 19th and 20th-century European and American collections. The sunk panel of white morocco, the masques and the painted open tools of mythological figures (centaur, winged sphinx) are typically Genevan and the work may be attributed to the KINGS' BOOKBINDER, who was active in the 1560s-1580s and did presentation bindings for Henri III and Henri IV of France and James VI of Scotland, as well as for Ulrich Fugger. The wonderful sphinx tool and the tiny quatrefoil semé appear on a 1579 Genevan binding for James VI, now in the Morgan Library (Needham 89), which shows a tool on its spine that seems to be part of the Kings' Bookbinder's equipment (see I. Schunke, 'Der Genfer Bucheinband' in: Jahrbuch der Einbandkunst IV, 1937). Most striking are FOUR SHARP GILT IMPRESSIONS OF AN OTHERWISE UNRECORDED FRENCH PLAQUETTE, Apollo flaying Marsyas. Known from Antique and Renaissance intaglios, the subject was popular in Italy (Kress, Bronzes 246-247 and 291), but this superb French medallion version is quite different. All decorative elements, except the arms block, could be a decade or two earlier, but the book block fits perfectly and it is at this point impossible to tell with certainty the extent of Capé's interference.
LITERATURE. A. Hobson, Humanists and Bookbinders pp. 142-144, and no. 129 of his census of plaquette bindings. M.M. Foot, The Henry Davis Gift I, ch. 16.