Stationery bindings come in all shapes and sizes and from many different periods: This latest addition to our collection is a striking example in green vellum, which dates from the mid-nineteenth century.
Discovered not far from us in an antiques shop in Herefordshire, this inexpensive little volume (H:187 W:123mm) has a fantastic local connection as it was originally owned by William Gee, Esquire, of Hanley Castle; just a stone’s throw from our studio in Hanley Swan, Worcestershire. A printed sheet pasted on the inside of the left cover, informs us that this pocket-sized book was produced by The London & Westminster Bank (merged with NatWest in 1970). Begun in 1861, William Gee used his book to record local rent payments, with his final entry dating from the year of his death in 1881.
The book displays many of the typical features of a nineteenth century stationery binding with blue, ruled paper and hand-sewing on two wide vellum tapes. In addition, the limp vellum case has a fore-edge flap with tongue and slot to keep the book fastened, and a gusseted pocket on the inside of the left cover; perhaps used for storing receipts. Another feature that caught our eyes, were the oblique marks on the edges, confirming that the book was cut with a guillotine; a machine that only became commonplace in the 1850s.
Having worked on a green vellum ledger as an Intern at the Leather Conservation Centre in 2008, Arthur became aware of the fashion for green vellum on eighteenth and nineteenth century stationery bindings. Hannett, in his 1835 work Bibliopegia, or The Art of Bookbinding in all its Branches, makes reference to covering stationery bindings in ‘green and white vellum’ and describes how to dye vellum green using Verdigris. Although not uncommon in their day, you don’t often spot green vellum bindings outside of archives today, so we’re pleased to have found this pretty example.
For further reading on two recent conservation projects involving green vellum stationery bindings, see:
Hyslop, J. (2017). A green parchment binding. Retrieved from www.themintonarchive.org.uk/a-green-parchment-binding/
Vardi, S. (2014). Putting the spring-back: The conservation of a 19th-century textile sample book. Retrieved from https://thebookandpapergathering.org/2014/03/06/putting-the-spring-back-the-conservation-of-a-19th-century-textile-sample-book/
Emily & Arthur, January 2020