Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/693

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
675
BOOKBINDING: ITS PROCESSES AND IDEAL.

when completely successful, when completely triumphant, he is then most conspicuously a failure. The tremulous outline of design—and design appeals to the imagination, to the inner eye of the soul as well as to the outer eye of sense—the tremulous outline of design has perished in the too great exactitude of his acomplished execution. Wholly to achieve victory, indeed, in the binder's craft, to forget no end in the prosecution of the means, to exaggerate no feature from long practice and perfect skill, to permit no craft of hand to overcome the judgment of the head, is, in bookbinding, as in all crafts, an exceedingly difficult task, and we have in the very development of a craft the cause of its ultimate decay. But what an education the prosecution of a craft is for the soul of a man! The silent matter, which is the craftsman's material, is wholly in his hands, it hears and makes no reproaches, but it never forgives and it has no mercy. Sunrise after sunrise lights the craftsman to his task, sunset after sunset leaves him to his regret. Shall the sun ever rise upon victory or set upon contentment? It is a great struggle. He only knows how great the struggle is, who knows what the aim of craft rising into the ideal is, and who tolerates, between him and it, no cloud of self-illusion, no splendor of popular praise to blind or to darken his gaze. And so through the work of his hand man may rise indeed to his soul's height. But the victory itself is withdrawn behind the veil. The world may not know it when it is achieved, and the artist himself may sometimes see it achieved, as he thinks, when to reach it he has yet to traverse the entire way of truth.

“Sown in a wrinkle of the monstrous hill,
 The city—sparkles still, a grain of salt.”

The great schools of design for the decoration of bound books are the great schools of France of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The first great school—the school of Grolier as it may be called—is characterized mainly by the simple motives of straightness and curvature. Straight and curved bands or straps and straight or curved lines are interwoven one with the other and distributed on a more or less simple or intricate but always symmetrical plan over the sides and back and sometimes the edges of a book.

The second great school—the school of the Eves—is characterized by the symmetrical distribution over the side of the cover of symmetrically drawn compartments or panels, and the union of them all into one organic whole by the intermediation of twisted or interwoven bands. This is its main and for its earlier years almost its only characteristic. But the school attained its maturity by the combination with it of an independent contem-