A binder’s Valentine’s Day gift

Valentine's day binding, 1691

This fine binding, given to College Library by W.J. Hely-Hutchinson, was made by the binder Alexander Cleeve, who worked in Westminster at the end of the 17th century.  The binding is red ‘turkey’ leather, tooled in gold, and including the distinctive vase with leopard’s head tool which belonged to Cleeve.

Valentine dedication

Inside, a page has been inserted, painted purple and covered in gold letters: this book is a Valentine’s day present to Mrs Dorcas Gale from her friend ‘A.C.’.  We can only assume that the giver was binder himself.  It is, from a modern perspective, a slightly dubious gift: the work inside, Allestree’s The Ladies Calling, is bestselling conduct book, setting out how the virtuous woman should live.  The first five sections cover compassion, affability, piety, modesty and meekness.  Cleeve might have made a rather bossy Valentine!

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