A Dutch silver book binding

Probably Amsterdam, 1600-1625

more information

A Dutch silver book binding

The cover pierced and engraved on both sides with a vase, foliage flowers and C-scrolls, in the centre a blank medallion, the spandrels engraved with flowers, the spine is divided by four ribs into three panels engraved with birds, foliage and flowers, the clasp engraved with further foliage and flowers, the knob is the finial of the inserted silver stylus that was used to write in this small booklet.

The present binding is made by an unknown Dutch silversmith, probably active in Amsterdam, working in the style of Theodore De Bry and Nicolaes de Bruyn. Perhaps Abraham van den Hecken belonged to this group of silversmiths.

The technique of cutting away precious metal by sawing probably was not extant during earlier periods. However, other techniques such as drilling, chiselling and polishing were applied more and more during the course of the 17th century. The designs of the ornamentation of these bindings seem to have been inspired by prints by the goldsmith, printmaker and publisher Theodor de Bry (1528 Liège – Frankfurt a/M 1598) and often comprises flower and fruit festoons, animals, birds, caterpillars, masks, sphinges, etc . All bindings are of small size and lack identification marks. It is commonly assumed that they were manufactured in the Northern Netherlands. For the greater part they contain books with a religious, often Protestant content, but some are known with a profane character, such as the silver binding holding a Liber amicorum for the newlywed couple Van Loon-Ruychaver, acquired by the Museum van Loon, Amsterdam, in 2009. In some cases their content was a notebook, its binding provided with a fastening and key and an inserted stylus. Other examples have a mirror on the inside of the front cover, a sundial and a compass.

On all comparable bindings the hallmarks are absent. It is not quite clear why. According to the guilds’ statutory regulations and decrees of the period, a silversmith had to strike his mark on each work before delivering it to the Assay Office, where, after acceptance, the town mark and year mark were struck. Prof. Dr Johan ter Molen gives a plausible hypothesis for the absence of the marks. He argues that there was very little enthusiasm with both patron and silversmith to take such a vulnerable object to the Assay Office. In order to be able to capitalise on heavy objects by getting at least the value of the investment in silver in return, such pieces, naturally, needed a guarantee of quality given by the Assay Office. However, for lighter objects, such as these bindings, with their relatively low weight and with their often religious function, the wealthy owner(s) would rarely have considered melting the piece down to regain the value of the silver invested. For this reason the interest for hallmarking such pieces may have been absent.

With Joseph M. Morpurgo, Amsterdam, 1958;
Private collection, Netherlands

J.W. Frederiks, Dutch Silver, vol. II, Wrought Plate of North and South Holland, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, 1958, n° 181, p. 64, ill. pl. 54

Associated Literature
Dr J.R. ter Molen, Zilver, Catalogus van de voorwerpen van edelmetaal in de collectie van Museum Boijmans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 1994, n° 4, p. 58, ill. p. 59;
Bernie Vervoort, An Early Seventeenth-Century Silver Binding Manufactured in the Province of Holland, the Decoration Influenced by De Bry, in Quærendo, 2015, p. 144-156

Probably Amsterdam, 1600-1625

85 x 60 mm

Related objects