Samuel Mearne, Binder to King Charles II


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DAVENPORT, Cyril. Samuel Mearne, Binder to King Charles II. Chicago: Caxton Club (Lakeside Press), 1906. Folio (10 by 12-1/2 inches), original half red cloth, gray paper boards, paper spine label.

Limited first edition, one of only 252 copies, of this illustrated treatise on Samuel Mearne, “the best-known figure in Restoration binding,” with 24 color plates of his bindings, some designed in his famous “cottage style.”

“The restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660 initiated the ‘golden age’ of English bookbinding, when England’s binders were no longer content to follow continental models, but strove to develop their own decorative aesthetic. The best-known figure in Restoration binding was Samuel Mearne. Beginning as an apprentice to binders in London in 1637, Mearne had his own bindery in London by 1653. Shortly after the fall of the Commonwealth in 1660, Mearne was appointed Bookbinder to the King, and in 1675 he and his son Charles were granted the life-long offices of Bookbinder, Bookseller, and Stationer to the King. Mearne’s duties were many: in addition to binding over 700 books for the Royal Library, every few years there was a turnover for all religious service books used in the Chapels Royal, which required the binding of hundreds of Bibles and Books of Common Prayer” (Bridwell Library). Mearne is credited with creating the distinctively English “cottage style,” the popularity of which grew to such an extent as to “endure with minor variations until the first quarter of the 19th century, thus lasting for a longer period than any other style of book decoration” (Roberts & Etherington). Bookplate of distinguished bibliophile and member of the Grolier Club, Abel E. Berland. “Mr. Berland kept none of his books behind glass to be venerated. They were all on open shelves in his library, to be lived with, touched and enjoyed. ‘The most important thing I can say to you about these books is that I never take them for granted… I am nothing more than their temporary keeper. It is my privilege to visit with them every day, and to be in their company” (New York Times).

A fine copy, with only light rubbing to extremities of original binding.

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