Welcome to our new feature series ‘Beautiful Bindings’ where we dig out treasures from the library stacks to show you just how elaborate the art of book binding has been throughout the years.
Today’s item is A Record of the Black Prince by Noel Henry Humphreys, 1849. The intricate book cover has been created using decoratively sculptured papier mâché that is then covered in plaster and pressed into a metal mould. This Victorian method replicated older Medieval Gothic carved wooden covers at a fraction of the price. Though a more cost effective approach to achieving a similar look, large print runs were required to earn back the costs of creating the mould.
The title of the volume sits upon a carved ribbon surrounding a centrepiece based upon Edward’s tomb in Canterbury and further embellishments are shown in addition to the Prince’s coat-of-arms.
The title page shows the item was printed in London and describes the book as follows: “A Record of the Black Prince. Being a selection of such passages in his life as have been most quaintly and strikingly narrated by chronicles of the period, embellished with highly wrought miniatures and borderings selected from various illuminated MSS., referring to events connected with English history.”
Inside the record are 6 original illuminated chromolithographs created by Noel Humphreys, a graphic artist and author whose travels through Europe and particularly Italy influenced his style.
So how do we keep such precious binding safe? The volume is stored in a fabric lined canvas covered box within the Library stacks. Don’t let that put you off visiting and asking to view the item at the Information & Research Library on the 2nd floor of Leeds Central Library.
Image of The Black Prince statue in Leeds City Square from Leodis the Leeds Libraries & Information Service photographic archive of Leeds.
Noel Henry Humphreys information taken from The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, a free resource for anyone with a Leeds Library card, it can be accessed from Leeds Libraries Online Resources.