Enfilade

Display and New Catalogue | Printed Books and Bookbindings

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on July 9, 2013

Now on view at Waddesdon Manor:

Group_bA Celebration of Books and Bindings
Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire, 10 July — 27 October 2013

To mark the publication this year of Giles Barber’s magisterial catalogue of the French 18th-century books and bindings at Waddesdon, a number of highlights of the collection will be on display in the Morning Room at the Manor. The books were collected by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild towards the end of his life, partly to complement the collections of 18th-century paintings and decorative arts, but also as works of art in their own right thanks to their intricately decorated gold-stamped bindings. The Waddesdon collection is one of the finest in the world, and the publication of the catalogue marks the first time which many of these treasures have been revealed in public.

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Press release from Waddesdon Manor:

Giles Barber, Catalogue of Printed Books and Bookbindings: The James A. de Rothschild Bequest at Waddesdon Manor (London: The Rothschild Foundation, 2013), 1162 pages, ISBN: 978-0954731083, £300.

A new catalogue of Printed Books and Bookbindings marks the completion of the important Waddesdon Catalogue Series, and the final publication of eminent author and book specialist, Giles Barber. The James A. de Rothschild Bequest: Printed Books and Bookbindings, published by the Rothschild Foundation, 2013, presents a scholarly analysis of Waddesdon’s outstanding collection of largely 18th-century French books. These were collected by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild towards the end of his life, partly to complement the collections of 18th-century paintings and decorative arts, but also as works of art in their own right thanks to their intricately decorated gold-stamped bindings. The Waddesdon collection is one of the finest of its kind in the world, and the publication of the catalogue allows many of these treasures to be revealed to public for the first time. A monumental work in two volumes, the first offers a series of essays, which chart the history of bookbinding, from the materials and techniques used, the histories of the binders themselves, the role of the patron and collector and the fluctuations of the market. One unique feature is the photographic index of every tool used on each book in the catalogue. All the books have been scanned and the individual tools isolated reprographically and reproduced at actual size. As many as 50 separate tools could be used in the creation of a prestigious binding, and being able to identify each one precisely allows comparisons with books in other collections and attributions to particular workshops to be made more accurately than ever before.

The Books and Bookbindings catalogue is also the final publication in the thirteen-volume Waddesdon Catalogue series, which covers the James A. de Rothschild Collection at the Manor as bequeathed to the National Trust. Waddesdon holds one of the most significant collections of 18th-century works of art in the world, comparable with similar holdings in the V&A, the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum and the Wallace Collection. The impetus to create the catalogue series arose when, on the death of James de Rothschild, the house was bequeathed to the National Trust and the need to make the collections accessible to the public and scholars became pressing. James’s widow, Dorothy, who took over the management of the house and ran Waddesdon until her death in 1988, set up a Catalogue Committee, headed initially by Anthony Blunt, then Director of the Courtauld Institute of Art. He was succeeded as General Editor of the series by Geoffrey de Bellaigue, later Director of the Royal Collection. The first volume, Paintings, by Ellis Waterhouse, appeared in 1967, and over the ensuing half century all the major subject areas of the Collections have been covered, each catalogue written by an eminent specialist in the field. The result is an exemplar in art publishing, with many of the titles, in which world-class objects benefit from exhaustive expert research, setting the standard in their fields.

This tradition of inviting eminent specialists to write the catalogues was especially true of Giles Barber, an internationally acknowledged expert with an unique encyclopaedic knowledge of the French bookbinders’ art. Barber’s career encompassed the Bodleian and the Taylor Institution at Oxford alongside independent writing and research, and included this last extensive catalogue for Waddesdon. Very sadly, Giles died unexpectantly in 2012, leaving the overseeing of the final editorial stages to the former Keeper of the Collections at Waddesdon, Rosamund Griffin, a role she has carried out on almost all the previous catalogues.

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