Bindery of the Brethren of Common Life / Broeders van het Gemene Leven

Henricus Herp, Speculum Aureum. [Colophon: Impressum in Argentina [Strassburg]: Joannem Knobloch, 1520]. 4to.
U.v.A OTM: Band 1 F 12

When a book is almost 500 years years old, the binding is bound to show traces of use. In this case, no doubt intensive use has not only resulted in the restoration of the spine and the edges of the covers, but also in overall worn tooling. In spite of the latter, part of the decoration on Band 1 F 12 is still discernable and comparison with a binding from the Aartsbisschoppelijk Museum in Utrecht has revealed similarities with the panels on twelve bindings which have been ascribed by Prosper Verheyden to the bindery of The Brethren of Common Life, active during the 15th/16th century as binders in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Below the central panel of Man of Sorrows, featured on the upper cover of all twelve bindings.

Band 1 F 12 front coverR0043216 copy-002











To the left the panel on Band 2 F 12, to the right the binding of Hs.19 at the Aartsbisschoppelijk Museum in Utrecht. The panel is located on the upper covers of all twelve bindings, and depicts Christ, half length, naked from the waist up, standing in a tomb with his arms crossed at the middle, in the utmost expression of piety, portrayed in various forms from the heyday of the Byzantine period, the first holy image possibly dating from the 8th century.

What would the Holy Brothers have thought of the present-day adhesive version below?


The animal panelstamp on the lower cover of Band 1 F 12 has nailmarks in exactly the same place as eight other bindings with this same panel and has ben conclusively identified to originate from the ‘s-Hertogenbosch bindery.

End of preview

Bindery of the Bossche Fraters, Brethren of Common Life, active ‘s-Hertogenbosch,15/16th century.
George Dunn (1864-1912).
Ulco Proost (1885-1966).
J.L. Beijers Utrecht, Auction November 7 and 8, 1967.


Catalogue of the Valuable and Extensive Library Formed by George Dunn, Esq. (Diceased), of Woolley Hall, near Maidenhead; Sold under the Will of the Deceased. The Third and Final Portion. 22-29 Nov. 1917. Lot nr. 3261.

The Fine Library of a Well-Known Amsterdam Collector [Ulco Proost]. Book Auction Sale November 7 and 8, 1967. J.L. Beijers/Utrecht. Lot nr. 1595.

Prosper Verheyden, ‘Boekbanden uit s-Hertogenbosch’. in: W. de Vreese, M.E. Kronenberg & F.K.H. Kossmann (Eds.), Het Boek. Nieuwe Reeks. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1933. p.209-239.

W.H. James Weale, Bookbindings and Rubbings of Bindings in the National Art Library South Kensington. II. Catalogue. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1894. 388 (upper panel). 400 (lower panel with some differences).


Tooling The process of impressing letters or decorative elements on a binding. Blind tooling: no colour. Gold tooling: imprint of gold leaf.

Panel A (central) design unit on a cover. Also the space between the bands on a spine.

Panelstamp When engraved and ready for use, the metal panelstamp was nailed onto a piece of wood. Consequently when impressed onto the binding the nailheads would leave an impression along with the image. Similarities in placement and size of these nailmarks can help in tracing the provenance of the panel and therefore of the binding.


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