Page:The Art of Bookbinding, Zaehnsdorf, 1890.djvu/18

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INTRODUCTION.

formed of separate leaves, will be found in the sacred books of Ceylon which were formed of palm leaves, written on with a metal style, and the binding was merely a silken string tied through one end so loosely as to admit of each leaf being laid down flat when turned over. When the mode of preserving MS. on animal membrane or vellum in separate leaves came into use, the binding was at first only a simple piece of leather wrapped round the book and tied with a thong. These books were not kept on their edges, but were laid down flat on the shelves, and had small cedar tablets hanging from them upon which their titles were inscribed.

The ordinary books for general use were only fastened strongly at the back, with wooden boards for the sides, and simply a piece of leather up the back.

In the sixth century, bookbinding had already taken its place as an "Art," for we have the "Byzantine coatings," as they are called. They are of metal, gold, silver or copper gilt, and sometimes they are enriched with precious stones. The monks, during this century, took advantage of the immense thickness of the wooden boards and frequently hollowed them out to secrete their relics in the cavities. Bookbinding was then confined entirely to the monks who were the literati of the period. Then the art was neglected for some centuries, owing to the plunder and pillage that overran Europe, and books were destroyed to get at the jewels that were supposed to be hidden in the different parts of the covering, so that few now remain to show how bookbinding was then accomplished and to what extent.

We must now pass on to the middle ages, when samples of binding were brought from the East by the crusaders, and these may well be prized by their owners for their delicacy of finish. The monks, who still held the Art of Bookbinding in their hands, improved upon these Eastern