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Beautiful bindings: the vellucent binding

In the 1890s, English bookbinder Cedric Chivers (1853-1929) introduced a new book decoration process which he called the “vellucent” binding. First, an artist would create a painting on a very thin medium. The design might include mother-of-pearl inlays, gold leaf, or other decoration. It would then be overlaid with a specially-treated sheet of vellum — a sheet of animal skin pared so thinly to be translucent. The vellum could be incorporated into a vignette inside a design leather binding or used to bind an entire volume. Vellucent bindings might incorporate gold tooling, mother-of-pearl inlays, and other decoration to achieve the desired effect. While Chivers’ associate H. Granville Fell designed most of these bindings, his shop employed a number of women artists, most frequently Dorothy Carleton Smyth, to paint the scenes.

Special Collections owns a few volumes bound in Chivers’ vellucent method, shown in this small gallery! They are available for study and research — just search the library catalog for the term”vellucent binding.” More information about vellucent bindings can be found in Marianne Tidcombe’s Women Bookbinders 1880-1920 (Oak Knoll, 1996).




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