Sunday, May 29, 2005


It's a Really Slow Read

Now here's something that caught my eye on eBay: a book bound in tortoise shell.

A little digging around reveals some similar tortoise-shell Bibles, and this note in P.M. Hough's 1901 book Dutch Life in Town and Country mentions the practice:

Singing was one of the principal social pastimes of the Dutch nation during the eighteenth and far into the nineteenth century, and the North Hollander was especially fond of vocal music. When young girls went to spend the evening at the house of a friend they always carried with them their 'Liederboek '—a volume beautifully bound in tortoise-shell covers or mounted with gold or silver. The songs contained in these books were a strange mixture of the gay and grave. Jovial drinking-songs or 'Kermisliedjes' would find a place next to a 'Christian's Meditation on Death.' It was an olla podrida, in which everybody's tastes were considered. Recitations were also a feature of these little gatherings.

Has anyone else seen these? I've seen other some odd bookbinding materials before -- a design book bound in curved sheets of metal, for starters -- and I own a 19th century poetry volume bound in some sort of porcelain-like material, though I'll be damned if I can figure out what it is. It didn't even work very well as a tureen at Thanksgiving.

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