KRAER, Valentin (bookbinder). Manuscript bill to the historian Edward Gibbon, author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, for binding 37 works in 170 volumes (paper boards [carton couvert] or half roan [dos et coins basane]), making one portfolio and mounting two maps, at a total cost of 84 Swiss livres and 19 sous. Headed Ouvrages fait pour Mr. Guibon per Valentin Kraër, Maitre Relieur, the bill carries Gibbon's signed autograph instruction to his local banker dated 14th October and the binder's signed autograph receipt dated from Lausanne, 16th October 1784.
One and a half pages, 2o (403 x 262 mm), on a full royal sheet of watermarked paper (2½ pp. blank). Original folds, attached to an old album stub. Modern cloth portfolio. Provenance: Sotheby's 23rd June 1969, lot 153.
The first of six surviving bills for work done by Kraer for Gibbon in Lausanne, the only one left in private hands (the others preserved in the British Library). The binder was born at Nuremberg in 1749; from 1779 onwards he is found in Lausanne, where he dies on 9th June 1795. "... for several years he was able to assist, in however humble a manner, one of the great minds of his age in his pursuits, by rendering his working tools a little more easily usable... Valentin Kraer was decidedly not a bookbinder meriting much note during a period which witnessed, especially in neighbouring France, the achievement of new heights of technical and artistic perfection by his art; he owes his modest resurrection entirely to the patronage of one great man, Edward Gibbon" -B.H.Breslauer, "Valentin Kraer, Gibbon's Bookbinder at Lausanne," in: The Book Collector (Spring 1975).
The binding invoiced on this bill was done from 12th January to 8th October 1784, a rapid pace of work and showing an extended credit of nine months. In 1784 Gibbon was still several years removed from finishing his magnum opus. His reading was of course prodigious, but he will have turned regularly to various works invoiced here by Kraer, such as Des Brosses' edition of Sallust (two copies), a folio atlas, a 6-volume Dionysius Halicarnassus, and a 2-volume Aelianus. Although much is known about the history and dispersal of Gibbon's library, most books on Kraer's bills can no longer be traced and many are not recorded in Geoffrey Keynes, The Library of Edward Gibbon (1940). Copies of Dr. Breslauer's article and the Sotheby catalogue of the portion of Gibbon's library sold by John Walter Haliday in 1934 are included with the lot.