Leipzig und Züllichau: In der Frommannischen Buchhandlung, 1792. Achte Auflage. 8vo (222 × 131 mm), pp. , 612; printed in double columns; contemporary Etruscan-style binding of full speckled calf, lightly rubbed, central cartouches depicting Hygieia and Asclepius, block-printed endpapers, mottled edges, smooth spine gilt in compartments, green morocco lettering-pieces, both chipped (see images). In very good unsophisticated condition, suitable for exhibition and study. Preserved in a green cloth protective case. Item #3069
A highly interesting neoclassical binding of austere elegance by Georg Friedrich Krauss, of Vienna, no doubt influenced by the English examples of the day, and one of the earliest examples of his work known. Indeed, German or Austrian examples of this type are rare at this date: we know of only one other such binder who engaged in similar work, namely the University of Wurzburg binder Sebastian Vierheilig.
In spite of his international fame, little is known of Krauss except: 1) he was appointed Hof-Buchbinder to the Habsburg court in Vienna (and deservedly so) and that one of his most distinguished clients was Albert von Sachsen-Teschen; 2) that as a binder working in the neoclassical style, he was seldom rivalled, although among his peers we must include the London binders Staggemeier & Welcher, and Christian Kalthoeber -- all German emigrants.
Our binding may be confidently assigned to the Krauss workshop owing to the virtually identical example reproduced in Mazal's great catalogue of the 1970 exhibition of bindings at the Vienna National Library (Abb. 258) which is strictly contemporary with our own, the book having been published in 1791 (it is the earliest known binding by Krauss). The bespoke binding was exhibited in the 1904 "Katalog der Ausstellung von Einbanden K.K. Hofbibliothek" (no. 540) where it was also attributed to Krauss. It is noteworthy that in said catalogue three bindings by Krauss were written in English and published in England. That our book is an German-English Dictionary suggests that Krauss may have had a special client, as yet unidentified, perhaps English aristocrat or diplomat then residing in Vienna. It is unclear to us why Krauss -- or his client -- chose to adorn the covers with depictions of Hygieia (health and cleanliness) and Asclepius (medicine), which seem to have no relation to a German-English dictionary. Or not? In any event, the client's favor of the "English" neoclassical style is hardly surprising.
NEOCLASSICAL BOOKBINDINGS: It may useful to define our understanding of the term "neoclassical" which we indicate as the reception of Greek and Roman antiquity by 18th-century artists. The English bookbinders were perhaps the first to seize upon neoclassical motifs that had become fashionable in the mid-18th century and onward, originating with the discoveries of Roman interior designs at Herculaneum and Pompeii (1738 and 1748 respectively). But the impact of the archeological finds were slow to take effect: the first of four volumes of the official publication of "Le antichita di Ercolano esposti" did not appear until 1757, after which time English binders began to develope "new" styles of expression to be employed upon the "old" (typically rectangular) format.
It could be argued the presentation bindings James Stuart's "Antiquities of Athens" (1762) and Robert Adam's "Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Dioclecian at Spalatro" (1764) initiated the craze for neoclassical bookbindings in England, but these were designed by architects, not bookbinders, as expressions of their own interior design. Interestingly, they anticipated Hancarville's publication of William Hamilton's "Collection of Etruscan, Greek and Roman Antiquities" (1766-1776). This monumental four-volume opus released a wave of enthusiasm for all things neoclassical in England and beyond, inspiring many binders, decorative artists (i.a. James Flaxman for Wedgwood), architects, and their patrons.
Attention is drawn to the simple emblematic bindings of the mid-1760s by Matthewman for Thomas Hollis (the tools were designed by Italian emigrant G.B. Capriani, a founding member of the Royal Academy). Roger Payne of Eton (1738-1797) produced many bindings of austere elegance, and his influence in England and on the Continent cannot be overestimated. These were followed by the incredibly prolific William and James Edwards of Halifax whose vellum covers offered a veritable canvas for painting in the neoclassical style, their frames composed of gold-tooled "Etruscan" palmettes and Greek-key rolls.
Georg Friedrich Krauss was surely influenced by all of the above, but he also developed his own style more directly inspired by illustrations of the discoveries at Pompeii and elsewhere. See for instance Hamilton's engraving of the newly discovered Temple of Isis interior at Pompeii (published in "Archaeolgia" no. 4, 1786) whereupon a flat ground small garlands methodically surround framed oval scenes, as here.
Literature: For Krauss, see Otto Mazal, Europaische Einbandkunst aus Mittelalter und Neuzeit. 270 Einbande der osterreichischen Nationalbibliothek (Graz, 1970) nos. 258-260. Peter Frank, in his Buchwesen in Wien 1750-1850: kommentiertes Verzeichnis der Buchdrucker, Buchhändler und Verleger (2008) p. 104, fails to mention Krauss' appointment as Hof-Buchbinder and may actually be conflating him with someone else. For another binder working in the Etruscan / neoclassical style see Angelika Pabel's article in the 2017 issue of Einbandforschung (no. 40): "'In wie weit meiner Erfindung einiger Verdienst zukomme': Der Wurzburger Buchbinder Sebastian Vierheilig (1762-1805)."
Reference: Alston, A Bibliography of the English Language from the Invention of Printing to the Year 1800, vol. XIII, 38.