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A binding by the scales binder, circa 1456-65

Mirjam M. Foot


THE main centres of English bookbinding during the second half of the fifteenth century were London, Oxford and Cambridge. Although a fair number of plain leather bindings of this period have survived, fewer than a dozen binderies producing tooled leather bindings are known to have started work before 1475. Possibly the earliest of these is that of the Scales Binder. He worked in London from the 1450s until after 1481 and his work, noted by M. R. James, was first systematically described by G. D. Hobson. Hobson identified twelve bindings from this binder, whom he named after one of his most characteristic tools, a pair of scales. J. B. Oldham and Graham Pollard also discussed this binder's work, but the most detailed account was published by Nicolas Barker who identified seven more examples and observed that the tools used to decorate the bindings fall into two groups. The first consists of twelve bindings, all covering manuscripts, none of which is demonstrably later than 1465. The second group of seven bindings covers two undated manuscripts and five printed books dated between 1466 and 1481.

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