The Sixteenth Century
Perhaps the most important development in sixteenth-century European bookbinding was the widespread introduction of gold tooling. First used in Islamic bindings, and spreading from Italy to France during the first quarter of the century, this form of decoration was applied in a method similar to that of blind tooling, except that a sheet of gold leaf was placed beneath the heated tool as it was pressed into the leather surface, leaving a gilt impression of the tool. Such decoration only rarely related to the specific contents of the book in a meaningful way during this period. Most often it conveyed a message directly related to the identity of the book's owner, consisting of armorial motifs or abstract patterns that expressed richness or grandeur. Earlier techniques such as blind tooling and panel stamping continued to be used, especially in Germany.