The Body and the Outfit of the Book: The Enigmatic Case of the Binding of Stanisław Sabinka’s Book in the Context of European Bookbinding of the Second Half of the Sixteenth Century
Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis
Keywords:bookbinding, history of craft, Jokūbas Morkūnas, Stanisław Sabinka, Francesco Guicciardini, Mannerism
The owners of the Latin translation of Francesco Guicciardini’s work Storia d’Italia published in Basel in 1566 were Stanisław Sabinka (?–1588?) and Nicolai Decius (1586–1629), important figures of the Vilnius political and religious elite of the second half of the sixteenth century. Until today, the elaborate binding of this book, quite untypical of the collections of rare books in Lithuanian libraries, has been attributed to the printer and bookbinder Jokūbas Morkūnas (c. 1550–1611) from Vilnius. However, other books related to his activity in Vilnius do not have enough similarities with the binding technique of Sabinka’s book and, thus, this attribution raises a number of questions. Instead of trying to establish the bookbinder’s identity, this article above all aims to define more precisely the technical features of binding through a detailed observation and focus on the material aspects of the artifact itself. A significant increase of research into the technical art history, material culture and so-called “book archaeology” in the recent decades provides a methodology that enables us not only to discuss the binding in the terms of decoration, but also to pay more attention to the structure itself. The collected technical data about Sabinka’s book and placing it into the wider context of European bookbinding of the second half of the sixteenth century allows us to reveal several historical layers of this binding and to raise a new hypothesis about the circumstances of its production. On the one hand, the binding represents an intention to follow the style of famous sixteenth-century noble bibliophilic libraries. On the other, the technical execution of the binding has features characteristic of the search for cost-effective binding solutions in Europe in the period after the invention of printing. Judging from the structural features, the binding seems to have similarities with Northern and Central European bookbinding traditions with a stronger influence of German crafts.