At my very first antiquarian book fair, I screwed up the nerve to take a random book from a shelf. Opening it, I was shocked to see my own last name stamped on the binding…and thereby discovered that my family were art bookbinders at the end of the 19th century, during the golden age of New York bookbinding and collecting. It was a revelation to me that books could also be beautiful objects, and that bindings could not merely protect books, but that they could celebrate them.
Soon after, I visited a rare book dealer. Could he tell me anything about the binders, Stikeman & Company, of New York? It so happened he could: he had two examples in his shop, and another in his collection. I deduced from this good fortune that their bindings must abound! I was wrong.
It took me thirty years to find one of those bindings again, after he'd sold it to another collector. I acquired it the very week in 2020 when I was elected to membership in the Grolier Club, for whose founding members my family had bound those books more than a hundred years before.
CATULLUS, TIBULLUS, PROPERTIUS.
London: Impensis G. Pickering, 1824. Binding by Henry Stikeman (Stikeman & Co.), New York, ca. 1890.
This mosaic binding was first exhibited at the Grolier Club in December 1890, in the Exhibition of Recent Bookbindings. It was one of the first bindings exhibited under Henry Stikeman’s own name.
Catullus was exhibited again at the Grolier in 1902. Both times it appeared alongside another miniature, Cicero (see: French Book Arts Grolier, 2018), also by Stikeman, and both commissioned by Samuel Putnam Avery. Avery’s son donated virtually his entire library of miniatures to the Club…except this one.
Jean Grolier de Servier, Viscount D'Aguisy. Some Account of his Life and of his Famous Library.
William Loring Andrews. New York: The De Vinne Press, 1892. Binding by Henry Stikeman (Stikeman&Co.) New York, ca.1897.
Exhibited at the 1897 Scribner’s Exhibition of Fine Bindings, this is one of three known variants in pattern and colors of a “Grolieresque” pattern by Stikeman on this title. The others are in institutional collections.
…a book about Jean Grolier, written by a founder of the Grolier Club, published by the Grolier Club, in a Grolieresque binding, and with a provenance including five Grolier Club members, it is a feast of Grolier associations.
POEMS, by Thomas Stanley, Esquire.
Thomas Stanley. London: Privately Printed, 1651. Binding by Henry Stikeman (Stikeman&Co.), New York, ca.1897.
An extraordinary mosaic binding, on a scarce title, Poems was commissioned by Marshall C. Lefferts and exhibited at the Grolier Club in April 1897.
About the exhibition, the New York Evening Post said, “Among the Stikeman examples is one very effective composition, entirely in lozenges, as if it were a treatise on the ten of diamonds.”
The design replicates that of a French binding depicted in color facsimile in Beraldi’s Estampes et Livres.