The Leman Binding

Conservation & Collections Management
October 21, 2019

Following my first post on the pulling of the binding, I thought I would now write on what has so far been discovered about it. We know the binding is not original. There are a number of clues that confirm this, but visually I can see from the structure and materials used that it is not in keeping with the date of the support leaves, which are believed to be fairly contemporary to the Leman designs themselves (i.e. early 18th century). Labels presumed to be from an earlier binding have been adhered to the front and back boards.

The endpapers and two of the compensation guards (additional paper bound into the album to compensate for the thickness of the designs) have a watermark identified as St Veronica, used by Barcham Green & Co Ltd, Hayle Mill, Kent, for one of their papers:

Detail of the watermark
The watermark on free endpaper

An email from Simon Green confirmed that the watermark of Christ’s Head, as it is usually referred to, is ‘based on the idea of his image being transferred into St Berenice (aka St. Veroncia)’s veil’. He also mentions that in 1974 the 1399 watermark was removed from its position as shown in the image here. The watermark was inherited from F.J. Head around 1919 but Simon explains it is likely that his grandfather and/or great grandfather developed it. In correspondence dated 9 April 1959 from the V&A to Messrs. Vanners & Fennell (then owners of the Leman album) there is reference to three ‘Chinese’-style designs that the curator supposed ‘were loose and got bound into the Leman set when the three volumes were re-bound’. The three volumes being referred to are the Leman Album, the Samuel Wilson album, and a sister album of swatches – the latter two belonging to Vanners Silk Weavers in Sudbury, Suffolk. All three albums have similar bindings, as can be seen by comparing the Leman to the Samuel Wilson album.

The Leman Album
The Samuel Wilson Album
The tooling on the corners is very similar:

Corner tooling on Leman album
Corner tooling on Samuel Wilson album

We can therefore date the binding to the 20th century – no earlier than 1919 and possibly no later than 1959.

There is a pattern of five hole stab-stitching marks to all bifolia from the album positioned approximately 10mm from the spine fold. They decrease in distance from the edge as one goes through the album, leading me to presume that they may have been stab-stitched together at some point. However, one bifolio has been sewn in upside down when re-bound, resulting in all the designs on it also being upside down. Interestingly the pencilled numbering of the designs does not reflect this error, which suggests that the numbering must have been done after the sheets were re-bound – could the album have had three different bindings over time? The stain at the tail edge of this inverted section must also have occurred after it had been re-bound – I wonder if there is a pattern to the stain at the tail end? If so, it is not evident yet!

In our textile collection there are three volumes of Anna Maria Garthwaite silk designs. The volumes dating from 1743 – 4 have her designs drawn directly on to the leaves. Each volume has the same sewing structure, which is a book block that has been stab stitched with double thread and the binding then stab stitched to the book block using a thicker thread – food for thought!

0 comments so far, view or add yours

Add a comment

Please read our privacy policy to understand what we do with your data.


Join today and enjoy unlimited free entry to all V&A exhibitions, Members-only previews and more

Find out more


Explore our range of exclusive jewellery, books, gifts and more. Every purchase supports the V&A.

Find out more