London: Printed for the Company of Stationers, 1781. Together 7 almanacs in one volume, 8vo (165 x 90 mm), each almanac with 48 pp. (see below). Bound by John Baumgarten in London: contemporary red morocco, richly and elaborately gilt with arabesques and floral and foliate motifs on both covers surrounded by Greek key borders (rebacked with original spine laid down, recent sympathetic spine label, corners refurbished), marbled endpapers, a.e.g. Very good. Item #4098
AN ENCHANTING ROCOCO BINDING BY JOHN BAUMGARTEN WHO IS CREDITED WITH INTRODUCING THIS STYLE TO ENGLISH BIBLIOPHILES.
A native of Germany, John (Johann Ernst) Baumgarten arrived in London in the 1760s, and thus was one of the first German bookbinders in the London West End. His technical skill and artistry made him internationally famous by 1770. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson acclaimed Baumgarten's work, and (of course) complained about his prices, writing in 1771 that books bound by Baumgarten in "fine Marbled bindings" cost 50% more than in plain bindings. (Source: Thomas K. Ford, The Bookbinder in Eighteenth-century Williamsburg" p. 7). Baumgarten received many commissions from George III and other noteworthy bibliophiles. He lived until 1782, after which time he was succeeded by his former apprentice Christian Kalthoeber (another German immigrant), who took over the shop and carried on the tradition of Anglo-German bookbinding at the highest level. If our binding was not executed by Baumgarten then it was certainly finished in his shop. In any event, "There can be no doubt that Baumgarten's lasting influence on English binding was very great and was not confined to that exercised through Kalthoeber" (Ramsden, London Binders, p. 9).
Baumgarten's influence also reached Spain: the fantastic "S-tools" and others that appear on our binding were copied by the most famous of all Spanish bookbinders, Gabriel de Sancha, who in 1782 apprenticed in London and clearly took the designs of various Baumgarten tools home with him. Notable is the Schafer copy of the 4-volume Ibarra Cervantes of 1780 (bound by Sancha ca. 1790) for which see Arnim, Schafer no. 144 (with illustration and further references) and Vindel, D. Antonio de Sancha (lamina XXVII).
Baumgarten's tools on the present binding can be seen on bindings published in:
1. Nixon / Foot, History of Decorated Bookbinding in England (pl. 99): British Library and its twin in the Morgan Library (both signed "J.B.");
2. Maggs Catalogue 1075, nos. 195 and 197. Note that the pair of "S-tools" can be distinguished from extremely similar (but not identical) copies owing to a particular leaf that is noticeably larger than its reversed twin. Messrs Maggs write: "The question of Baumgarten's tools and the rococo bindings of this period is immensely complex [...] Baumgarten's was a large enough shop to employ several finishers necessitating the use of more than one nearly identical set of the more fashionable tools."
3. Foot, Henry Davis Gift II, no. 184. Foot writes: "This group has several tools in common with the group of bindings attributed to John Baumgarten, but also a considerable number of tools which are closely similar to, but not identical with, those used on bindings attributed to him."
4. Nixon, "Baumgarten's Will" in: Festschrift Ernst Kyriss (1961), p. 399, a copy of Wood's Essay on Homer 1775, now in Huntington Library.
The idea of binding together a set of almanacs from the same year is a good one. Although they all contain information that contemporary readers would expect from an almanac, such as calendars, astrological and astronomical observations, they each have their own particular interests. Some contain mathematical problems and quizzes, some provide a list of Bishops and Judges while others offer religious reflections and historical notes. Last of all is Old Poor Robin who offers his readers "A Variety of Subjects...Part in Prose, Part in Verse, Part in Narrative, Part Contemplative, Part Serious. Part Comic for the Entertainment and Improvement of the human Mind and adapted to the meanest Capacity."
CONTENTS OF THE SAMMELBAND:
1. The Celestial Atlas, or a new ephemeris by Robert White (ESTC T59986);
2. Vox Stellarum or a Loyal Almanack by Francis Moore (ESTC T16924);
3. Merlinus Liberatus by John Partridge (ESTC T17078);
4. The Gentleman's Diary or the Mathematical Repository (ESTC T57503);
5. The Ladies' Diary or Woman's Almanack (ESTC T58286);
6. Speculum Anni or Season on the Seasons by Henry Season (ESTC N49012);
7. Old Poor Robin. An Almanack by Poor Robin, Knight of the Burnt-Islands (ESTC T17664).
PROVENANCE: Ownership inscription of "Thomas Hill 1841."