Click to view higher-resolution image

A German "Peasant" Binding

Biblia Sacra, das ist, Die gantze Heilige Schrifft... verteutschet von D. Martin Luther.
Berlin: Johann Friedrich Lorentz, 1748.

Crowded with a great variety of simple stamps and painted in garish pigments, this type of vellum binding is known in German as “Bauern Einbände” (peasant bindings). Although such bindings betray the strong influence of folk art, they are by no means bindings for peasants. Since they often incorporate gilt edges and brass clasps, we must assume that the people who purchased them were not only literate, but also possessed disposable income. The style originated in Hungary, spread through Germany, and also became popular in Scandinavia and the Netherlands for Bibles, prayer books, and hymnals presented as wedding gifts.

The binding for this Lutheran Bible in German, tinted with light orange, yellow, and green paint, bears two brass clasps cast in the shape of the Blessing Christ. Both of the covers were tooled with the legend “Ehre sey Gott” (Glory to God), along with a great variety of blind-stamped motifs, including hearts, cherubs, flowers, stars, flourishes, columns, chalices, a dove, and the crucified Christ at the center. The pairs of hearts prominent on the upper and lower covers contain the initials “CS” and “IP,” which likely belonged to a pair of newlyweds.