By Rebecca Rego Barry
Sangorski & Sutcliffe is synonymous with fine binding and is often hailed as the “Rolls Royce of Bookbinding.” At the turn of the twentieth century, Francis Sangorski and George Sutcliffe wowed their fellow craftsmen with elaborate and innovative leather binding designs. Ornate jeweled bindings–featuring inset semi-precious stones–became one of their specialties.
Next month one of those sumptuous bindings is going to auction in New York. It is, according to Bonhams, a “fantastic example of a Sangorski & Sutcliffe jeweled binding … with 9 pearls and 3 rubies, and incorporating 9 sapphires, surrounded with a wreath of laurel enriched with 79 pearls.” And the inside is as beautiful as the outside: Bound within is an illuminated manuscript on vellum of Byron’s “Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte” accomplished by L. Fairfax Murray, an artist associated with the English Arts and Crafts movement.
Notably, this book was once owned by Phoebe A.D. Boyle, a Brooklyn widow and prominent Sangorski & Sutcliffe collector. Boyle’s collection of 45 S&S jewelled bindings (and 31 illuminated manuscripts done by Alberto Sangorski, Francis’s brother) went to auction in 1923. “It was by far the greatest array of these masterpieces ever put together and can never be replicated,” wrote Stephen Ratcliffe, in a 2014 article for Fine Books about the Ransom Center’s renowned S&S collection.
Perhaps not replicated, but some collector will have the opportunity to nab this one at least — for an estimated $40,000-60,000.
Image courtesy of Bonhams