A Genuinely Unique Aldine Enchiridion

Binding of the three different issues of Francesco Griffo da Bologna – Fragments & Glimpses will proceed through October. Clarity, and copies of the book, will arrive in November. Meanwhile, a short story related to the project...

I had been pondering a second crack at Griffo almost since the first was completed, in 1999. I wanted to include the primary sources all the others were simply repeating, and samples of the types being discussed. I have always been interested in leaf books, I knew an Aldine leaf would be the best sample possible, but one doesn't find a pile of Aldine leaves often. When I did stumble across a broken, incomplete copy of Aldus's second Ovid volume (Heroidum epistolae), the Griffo project finally gained momentum. 

I found the leaves a few years ago, and just lived with them for some time. No part of the binding remained. A significant portion of them were intact bifolia and sections - it's a shame (if not a crime) to split them just for the sake of making a leaf book. Besides, there were enough separated leaves in the collection for whatever edition I would publish. Unfortunately these were somewhat stained, where the complete sections tended to be cleaner. 

The complete volume (the title page, shown above, was absent from the pile I found) included the Heroidum poems, plus seven other books. As I tucked into my collection of leaves, sorting them into their proper order, I realized that I had three of the volume's books complete - De arte amandi, De remedio amoris, and In ibin. (The remaining leaves were from parts of Heroidum.) 

The original F&G was issued in an edition of 26 lettered and six numbered copies, the former bound in full calf by Natasha Herman, the latter in limp vellum by Hélène Francoeur. Natasha lived on Vancouver Island at the time, and had apprenticed with the binder Courtland Benson. In the mid-1990s Simon Fraser University was given a collection of 16th century Aldines, and Benson was commissioned to restore some of the volumes' bindings, a project Natasha helped with. She went on to apprentice at Barbarian Press for a year or so in the early aughts, before marrying and relocating to the Netherlands, where she established Redbone Bindery and a reputation for skillful and well-informed restoration and conservation binding. We stayed in touch and occasionally discussed the idea of working together again. Her feeling was it needed to be a project that fit with her historical binding skills and knowledge (and probably not an entire edition, just a few copies). Voilà Griffo. 

When I was working on the George Wither emblem project a few years ago, I came into possession of several early emblem books. One was a 1663 edition of Quarles' Emblems bound in full calf, in very good condition save for the fact that the boards were no longer attached. I sent that to Natasha and she very neatly put things back together (given the materials and age, her solution was to use a strong Japanese paper, suitably colored, to make the join at the spine). 
Once I had fully realized exactly what I had in the pile of Aldine leaves I'd acquired, I sent the three complete books to Natasha and suggested maybe a simple limp vellum binding would be suitable. Just to give it some context, I printed a facsimile of the volume's title page (on some suitably matched 17th century paper), but with the absent books deleted. Natasha sent back the lovely little volume, with sewn endbands laced into a limp case and a simple spine label. It is the closest thing I have to an early Aldine, and probably always will be. 
I am slowly making my way through the 30 copies being cased in quarter cloth here. It takes forever to sew the 17 sections. Claudia is likewise into the 15 limp vellum copies, with each of the spines titled in a calligraphic hand by HM's old friend & collaborator, Francesca Lohmann. The five "Dutch" copies are with Natasha, and will be the focus of a future blog post.


Have you seen the new book from David R. Godine, A Grammar of Typography by Mark Argetsinger? I got my hands on a copy just yesterday, and have spent only a few minutes with it, but it looks fantastic in content and execution. 

 Watched How Writing Changed the World last night, it was fun.