Gold tooling as a finishing technique entered Europe through Italy and Spain, which had relatively close contact with the Islamic cultures of the Middle East and southern Mediterranean. Arab binders, especially those in Mamluk Egypt, had long used gold to decorate book covers by stamping or painting. These bindings had a direct influence on Italian binders and book collectors in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The earliest European use of gold was minimal and often combined with blind tooling, to contribute small bright elements to the overall design. Gold tooling quickly spread across Europe and became the preferred finishing technique. By the mid-sixteenth century it had largely displaced blind tooling, and gold-tooled designs on expensive bindings sometimes filled the entire cover.
Egyptian, fourteenth century
An Islamic binding with a painted gold design combined with blind tooling.
Author: Shihab-al-Din Mahmud ibn-Sulayman ibn-Fahd al-Halabi, 1246-1325
Title: Husu al-Tawassul ila Siu'at al-Tarassul (The Good Means for Attaining the Art of Correspondence).
Locale: Cairo, 1299-1315
Location: Manuscripts Division: Robert Garrett Collection
Call number: Islamic Manuscript 256B
Dimensions: 18 x 12.8 cm

Italian, fifteenth century
A fifteenth-century Italian binding with painted gold and a design with Islamic characteristics.
Author: Virgil
Title: Aeneid and Georgics.
Locale: Rome, ca. 1515-1525.
Location: Manuscripts Division
Call number: Princeton Ms 104
Dimensions: 23 x 17 cm

Arab, fourteenth century
An Arab binding typical of Mamluk Egypt or Syria. Small gold dots, now rather faint, are used throughout an elaborately blind-tooled cover.
Author: Ibn al-Athir, Majd al-Din al-Mubarak, ibn Muhammad, 1149-1209
Title: Jami al-usul li-ahadith al-rasul.
Location: Manuscripts Division: Robert Garrett Collection
Call number: Islamic Manuscript Y1785
Dimensions: 19.5 x 11.5 cm

Italian, fifteenth/sixteenth century
A late-fifteenth- or early-sixteenth-century Italian binding on an edition printed by Aldo Manuzio. Small gold-tooled dots are set within a blind-tooled sarcophagus design.
Title: Bible. Old Testament. Psalms. Greek.
Published: Venice: Aldo Manuzio, 1497.
Location: Rare Books: (ExI)
Call number: 5156.1497 (copy 2)
Spine height: 21.5 cm