Seventeenth-century bookbindings in the Chapter Library of Toledo Cathedral : a documentary analysis of fan motifs

Objective: The Chapter Library of Toledo Cathedral contains an excellent collection of ornately bound, fifteenth- to nineteenth-century books. Amongst the seventeenth-century volumes, the corners and centre of the upper boards of a series of bindings are decorated with a fan motif in the Baroque style. Our objective was to examine various aspects of the bindings, including the materials, techniques and tools that were used to make and decorate them, the fan motifs themselves and the bindings’ state of conservation. With regard to their provenance, we also wanted to study the armorial devices displayed on some of the bindings and identify the binders who had created them.

Methodology: An inventory was made of the fine bindings in the collection and 98 seventeenth-century bindings were selected, including bindings decorated with a fan motif in the Baroque style of Du Seuil and Le Gascon, and also bindings from the Library’s Obra y Fábrica collection of seventeenth-century parchment volumes. Each binding was indexed in a catalogue which recorded the materials, techniques and tools used in its making, a description of the motifs displayed on the upper board and its state of conservation. The indexes also provided information about the provenance of the bindings and owner’s marks.

Results: We identified the materials, techniques and tools used to make and decorate the bindings, and describe the decorative motifs and the bindings’ state of conservation. In a number of cases, we identified owner’s marks, armorial devices and also the workshop where the binding had been made.