Gold Tooled Binding from the Library of Denis de Sallo

Band 3 B 6-19-019

Band 3 B 6-18-018

Sebastian Castellio, Moses Latinus ex Hebraeo factus per Sebastianum Castalionem explicantur. Basileae: [Colophon: Ioannis Oporini, 1546]. Small 8vo. UvA OTM: Band 3 B 6.

Of the 39 bindings I have seen until now, I am most taken in by this one, and in that I am not alone, this book has had some illustrious owners. What makes this item so alluring? The vellum is warped, and the book does not open properly. It is very tightly bound and the front edge of the bookblock is almost sticking out. All probably due to climatic influences and binding method, but this certainly does not spoil the pleasure. Part of what makes this book special is that it is the only vellum binding among the 39 special bindings in the Bandenkast, the rest are leather bound. The explanation for this might be that, although in the time vellum was often used for bindings, this was maybe not à proiri the best choice for stylish bindings for an upper class collector, his library a showcase of wealth and prestige. The books in the Bandenkast are without exception made from the best leathers, masterpieces of bookbinding. Vellum was a good choice for books for daily use and therefore prone to wear and tear. As it is weather susceptible the skin is commonly warped, but also super tough and austere. Very appropriate material for scholarly texts, as is this work by Sebastian Castellio (1515-1563), and a telling choice made by the first owner of this book, a man of means who was not afraid to break new ground.

Gold tooled supra libros, on the upper cover: Δ Σ Ι  on the lower cover D S. Who was D S? The UvA catalogue identifies him as Denis de Salbo. But who is Denis de Salbo? Not to be found. Excuse me UvA, it should be Denis de Sallo.
Denis de Sallo was a French politician, a lawyer, writer, and most importantly, founder of the first academic periodical Journal des scavans in 1665.
As a critical scholar, journalist and Jansenist, De Sallo would have been interested in the work of Castellio, a French preacher and theologian, who got caught up in a controversial argument on Bible interpretation with one-time friend and inspirator Jean Calvin, resulting in Castellio’s banishment from Geneva. To read Castellio would have meant to aggravate Calvin, and it is evident that Calvin was not someone to have against you. A hundred years later Castellio’s work was no longer a threat to Calvin, however religious quarrels continued and Denis de Sallo’s Jansenist preferences and refusal to submit to censurship, were not appreciated by Rome. The Journal des scavans was suppressed after three months and continued in 1666 under another editor.
De Sallo’s library is said to have consisted of an impressive 207 manuscripts and 3728 printed works. A 1670 catalogue confirming this, has unfortunately been declared lost by the Bibliothèque Nationale. Research reveals four other books with his monogram on their bindings and with identical gold tooling as on Band 3 B 6. Three bound in leather: one in the British Library, one in the Folger Shakespeare Library and one sold by Sotheby’s in 2007. Only one other vellum binding, identical to Band 3 B 6, sold by Christie’s in 1991.

Δ Σ Ι / D S = Denis de Sallo, Sieur de la Coudraye (1629-1669)
George Dunn (1864-1912)
J.R. Abbey (1896-1969)
Sold by Bernard Quaritch Rare Books and Manuscripts, London

Catalogue of Valuable Printed Books and Fine Bindings from the Celebrated Collection the Property of Major J.R. Abbey. Sotheby’s & Co. 21-22-23 June 1965. Not in this catalogue.

Catalogue of the Valuable and Extensive Library Formed by George Dunn, Esq. (Disceased). Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge. Third and Final Portion. 22-29 November 1917. Lot. nr. 1909.

Denis de Sallo. The Galileo Project.

The De Sallo Library:
‘S. possédait un mobilier de valeur moyenne et une bibliothèque de quelques 3000 volumes, estimés 5000 £ ; de cette collection que complétait peut-être un cabinet poitevin, un catalogue daté de 1670, a disparu des collections de la B.N., il aurait comporté 3728 volumes et 207 manuscrits.’

O.E. Ris Paquot, Dictionnaire encyclopédique des marques & monogrammes etc. Paris: Henri Laurens, (1893). p. 137.

Vellum ‘The skin of a calf, not tanned but de-greased and specially treated, used eather for writing or printing on, or in binding. For binding limp vellum was commonly used in the 16th and 17th centuries, sometimes panelled in gilt, but often quite plain.’ An interesting piece of information also given by Carter in this lemma, is that vellum ‘is best cleaned either with a clot of damp breadcrumbs or with milk’, also a sure way to identify fake vellum as this will be fatally corrupted if treated with crumbs or milk.
John Carter, ABC for Bookcollectors. London: Granada Publishing, 1980. p.212.

Limp vellum is vellum without any strengthening. A paperback avant la lettre.



  1. As is written in the blogpost above:
    – De Sallo: presumably sold in Paris, presumably part of the 1670 Sales Catalogue which has gone missing from the Bibliotheque Nationale.
    – Not found in the J.R.Abbey Sotheby’s Sale Catalogue 1965.
    – George Dunn: London, sold by Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge. Third and Final Portion. 22-29 November 1917. Lot. nr. 1909.

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