no date [ca. 190306] · Barcelona
Frederic W. Goudy is famous as a type designer, owner of a press, advocate of good type design in all print media, and an inspiring spirit of the American fine press movement at the beginning of the 20th century. We know that he took some of his own inspiration from the British and American Arts and Crafts movement and its interest in medieval manuscripts.
Virtually unknown is his creation of medieval-inspired manuscripts, indited on parchment, illuminated, hand-colored, illustrated, and then bound appropriately. He created this rendering of Ecclesiastes without providing a colophon but did initial the title-page thus tying its creation to him. The overall style would point to the 1890s.
The first leaf bears a gilt border on the recto but is otherwise blank; this is followed by two blank leaves, then the title-leaf. The recto bears an asymmetrical illuminated and polychromatic four-element border filling the top, inner, and bottom sides. The wording is presented in a modified serif with the "E" of Ecclesiastes done in red on a gold field with some white floral elements, and the "P" of "Preacher" is in red with black hashing. The verso is blank as is the next leaf.
The biblical text begins on 6r and all of the text leaves bear illuminated, polychromatic, and illustrated borders on two of the four sides of the page. => Each border is unique, there are no repeats. The text is enlivened with infills of red, green, and gold, as well as vines and even bowls with flowers. The many human faces that appear in some of the borders may well be those of friends, neighbors, or acquaintances.
The leaf/page construction of the manuscript is this, with a very few exceptions: a leaf of parchment is folded in half and sewn to the binding at the open end, thus leaving inner "pages" blank, as with Asian books. The text of this manuscript, then, is present on the outer surfaces of the folded leaves.
Binding: Dark brown leather with a richly embossed border on the covers that has been gilt over the embossing, and an inner frame offering a central lobed oval with pendants and corner pieces with arabesque designs on a gold ground. Modeled on that "used in the 17th and 18th centuries to produce sharp inlaid medallion designs of the Persian-style binding. The supporting board was hollowed out in the exact shape of the stamp to be used, then the dampened leather was placed over the board. When applied to the leather, the heated stamp molded into the contours of the board and created a deep impression. The gilt patterns were applied to paper, perhaps because paper took the gilding more readily than leather. The paper was then placed between the leather and the stamp, hence becoming sealed to the leather during the stamping process" (Beinecke Library Exhibit "Islamic Books and Bookbinding," Arabic ms. 166, http://www.library.yale.edu/neareast/exhibitions/Islamic_book2.html ).
Pastedowns of lighter brown leather with inlaid blue leather central lobed oval; pendants and corner pieces with arabesque designs All edges gilt. Binding as above, spine expertly repaired using the Japanese long-fiber method and then toned. One blank leaf with a cut. Folded edges of two bifolia partially opened. => A beautiful, curious, and sumptuous production; an extraordinary relic of a legend in lettering. (Inventory #: 35510)