Click to view higher-resolution image

A Forgotten Binding by Roger Payne

Quintilian (35–95 CE).
Declamationes.
Venice: Lucas Dominici, 5 June 1482.

Roger Payne (1738–1797), perhaps the most famous of all English bookbinders, was well known both for his exquisite gold tooling and his squalid lifestyle. He worked at Eton beginning in the late 1750s, then at London with the support of the bookseller Thomas Payne (no relation). There he served many illustrious patrons, including the classics scholar Michael Wodhull (1740–1816), an early owner of this book. Wodhull bought this book at the sale of the library of Dr. Benjamin Heath (1704–1766). The first plain endleaf is inscribed by Wodhull: “Revd Dr. Heath’s Auction / 2£:6s:=d / M. Wodhull / May 18th 1810 / Perfect.” The annotated catalog of Heath’s sale confirms that the book was bound by Roger Payne and purchased for Wodhull by Thomas Payne: “4196. Quintilianus Declamationes, russia, gilt leaves, by Roger Payne, liber rarissimus — Venetis, folio 1482 [Payne £2.6s].” By the time the book came to Bridwell Library in 1962, the identity of its binder had been long forgotten.

If Payne bound the Declamationes specifically for the elder Dr. Heath, one of his regular patrons, it would be an early work from c. 1765. However, the design is similar to those found on books bound by Henry Walther at London around 1800. Simple yet attractive, it dispenses with Payne’s familiar array of small tools in favor of plain gold fillets comprising paired lozenges with semicircular lobes at the corners set within rectangular borders. The gold-tooled words “VEN. MCCCC.LXXXII. / QUINTILIANI / DECLAMATIONES” run vertically up the narrow spine.