SMU Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology SMU, Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology SMU Bridwell Library Perkins School of Theology

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An Early English Panel-Stamped Binding

Guilelmus Carthusiensis (fl. 15th century).
Sermones super Orationem Dominicam.
Paris: Ulrich Gering and Berthold Rembolt, 1494.

Facing an unprecedented increase in book production, fifteenth-century Netherlandish binders popularized a time-saving measure known as panel stamping, in which heated metal plates cast in relief were impressed into the dampened leather covers in a press. This process allowed for a more abundant and pictorially coherent design than repetitious blind tooling did. Panel stamping eventually became the dominant form of binding decoration in Northern Europe during the sixteenth century.

On this English calfskin binding, a handsome panel stamp depicts the “Ecce Homo” (“Behold the Man”), the traditional devotional scene in which Christ, holding the instruments of his torture beneath a Gothic canopy, appears before the viewer just as he was shown to the people by Pontius Pilate (John 19:5). The panel stamp on the other cover shows pairs of dragons, falcons, and monstrous dogs framed by vegetal ornament.