Italian, sixteenth century
This imposing sixteenth-century gradual, like other service books, was intended to rest permanently on a lectern or altar, where it could be easily seen by many members of the choir during mass. It surely took a stout monk to bind such a heavy volume, and the binding is probably the work of more than one pair of hands.
Title: Gradual, temporale from 3rd Sunday in Lent through Wednesday in Holy Week.
Locale: Northern Italy, early 16th century.
Location: Manuscripts Divsion: Robert Garrett Collection
Call number: Garrett Ms 45

67 x 48 cm

In the late Middle Ages a type of portable book evolved that we call a girdle book, implying that it could be carried tucked into a girdle or belt. With the founding of mendicant religious orders like the Franciscans, and with the increasing interest in pilgrimages, there came a need for portable books of personal devotion such as breviaries and prayerbooks. Girdle books were produced in large numbers at the time, but today fewer than twenty are known to survive. This model is based on the girdle book in the Spencer Collection at the New York Public Library.

Spine height is 14 cm.

Another view of the previous binding.

German, sixteenth century
In contrast to the altar book, this little sixteenth-century German binding of a book by Seneca is portable indeed, and required very delicate workmanship.
Author: Seneca, Lucius Annaeus, ca. 4 B.C.-65 A.D.
Title: L. Annaei Senecae et aliorum Tragoediae serio emendatae.
Edition: Editio prioribus longe correctior.
Published: Amsterodam: Willem Janszoon Blaeu, 1624.
Location: Rare Books (Ex)
Call number: 2920.1624s
Spine height: 12 cm

All three bindings shown in relation to one another.