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Pam van Holthe tot Echten

Two Apollo and Pegasus bindings, one of them a fake

'Apollo and Pegasus', or 'Canevari' bindings, are 16th century bookbindings with a blind stamped medaillion of Apollo and Pegasus on both covers. These devices were either vertically or horizontally placed and encircled by a gilt stamped band with Greek motto: ‘Ο Ρ Ο Ω Σ Κ Α Ι Μ Η Α Ο Ξ ΙΩ Σ’ (straight and not crooked); the devices were sometimes partially coloured.


Left: IV. Iuvenalis una cum Au. Persio nuper recogniti. [Impressum on b 4. Florentiae: Philippus de Giunta, 1513.]. In-8. OTM: Band 1 D 7.

Right: Paolo Giovio, Vite brevemente scritte d'huomini illustri di guerra antichi, et moderni. In Venetia: Apresso Francesco Bindoni, 1558. In-8. Remboîtage. OTM: Band 3 C 14

Bindings with this medaillion were said to have originated from an unidentified Roman library, the dispersal of which resulted in the books first coming onto the market in the 17th century.1 Unclear about their origin, booksellers and scholars alike have since sought to identify the original owner. One of the early attributions taken seriously, was inspired by the book-thief and forger Guglielmo Libri (1802-1869) who in his 1862 catalogue introduced a non-existing papal physician named Mecenate as provenance for these bindings. This was picked up by Jacques-Joseph Techener (1802-1873), the famous librarian and bibliophile revered by all, but when it turned out to have been a Guglielmo Libri-fantasy, Techener suggested the library of Demetrio Canevari (1559-1625), a Genoese doctor living in Rome, physician to Pope Urban VII. This attribution was also set straight2, but the name ‘Canevari' binding stuck, and is often still erroneously used. The alternative name, Apollo and Pegasus binding, refers to the medaillion, which depicts Apollo, the leader of the Muses, with Pegasus. A symbol of poetic inspiration on Parnassus, the sacred mountain of the Muses and a fitting symbol to be stamped on the bindings of a Renaissance bibliophile with a fondness for the classical era. The most recent identification by Hobson 1975 points to Giovanni Battista Grimaldi (1524-c 1612) as the humanist who commissioned these bindings for his library.

144 bindings with the Apollo and Pegasus medaillion have been identified3 to be the real thing and Wittock 1998 lists 454 falsified specimens. Illustrative for the quality of the forgeries and fakes is that they all were, at some time, part of a bibliophile collection. In spite of the 20th century testimonial on the left pastedown of Band 1 D 7, it is a fake binding. This is based on G.D. Hobson’s research on the Apollo and Pegasus bindings and a list of characteristics5 of the forgeries named by him, most of which are indeed applicable to the binding on Band 1 D 7. As the University of Amsterdam also owns a true Apollo and Pegasus binding Band 3 C 14. Comparison of the two will make the difference between the two bindings clear beyond any doubt.

Comparison Apollo and Pegasus device on Band 1 D 7 and Band 3 C 14

A - Stamping of the binding. The floral tools on a fake Apollo and Pegasus binding are clumsy and unsymmetrical, instead of finely cut and symmetric. The lines on Band 1 D 7 are crooked, the cornerpieces touch or even overlap the gilt border instead of being placed at aesthetic angles within the border lines as on Band 3 C 14.


Band 1 D 7 and Band 3 C 14

B - The inscription. On Band 1 D 7 the Greek inscription is in clumsy letters, but flawless spelling. On genuine bindings the letters are well-defined and handwork resulted in mistakes like the missing iota between the Ξ and Ω in the bottom half of the greek inscription on Band 3 C 14. Another telling indicator is that the subtle three-legged tools in the border of the genuine medaillon on Band 3 C 14 have become simple dots in the fake device on Band 1 D 7.


Band 1 D 7


Band 3 C 14

C - Apollo and Pegasus device

1. The body of Apollo is partly covered by a cloak (Band 1 D 7). On the genuine medallion the nude body is seen with the cloak flowing behind it (Band 3 C 14).

2. The wheels of the chariot have four spokes (Band 1 D 7). They should have six (Band 3 C 14).

3. Front and back of the charriot are straight (Band 1 D 7). The front of the charriot should curve upward and it should have a volute in the back (Band 3 C 14).

4. The near horse has its head turned all the way back (Band 1 D 7). The near horse should have its head turned toward the spectator (Band 3 C 14).

5. The front legs of the horses are almost straight (Band 1 D 7), they should be much more curved (Band 3 C 14).

6. The whip reaches above the head of the first horse (Band 1 D 7), instead of circling above the backs of the horses (Band 3 C 14),

7. Pegasus has his wings pointed upwards (Band 1 D 7) instead of laid to the back (Band 3 C 14).

8. The clouds are in reliëf and are heavy and lumpish (Band 1 D 7), in the genuine medaillion they are usually lacking altogether, as in Band 3 C 14.

D - The spine of the book should have numerous raised bands, alternately large and small. As a genuine 16th century binding Band 1 D 7 indeed does have these, but since Band 3 C 14 has been re-backed, no comparison is possible.

In addition to the evidence presented above, where the characteristics of fake Apollo and Pegasus bindings are applicable to Band 1 D 7, it is also found that true Apollo and Pegasus bindings were bound in morocco6. Band 1 D 7 however is bound in dark brown calf, another reason to suspect its genuineness. Band 3 C 14 is in red morocco, in accordance with Hobson’s observation that this was prevalent for Italian works.7 Both works bound in Band 3 C 14, the original as well as the remboîted one, are in Italian. Finally, with one exception, Apollo and Pegasus bindings had no ties.8 The binding on Band 1 D 7 has holes with remains of ties.

Monte - Villa - Libri

It is evident that Band 1 D 7 is a fake Apollo and Pegasus binding and Band 3 C 14 is a genuine one, but which of the two bindings is the most authentic? Band 1 D 7 is a genuine 16th century binding, but has been spruced up with 19th century, fake 16th century, decoration and has been restored sometime during the 20th century. On the other hand, Band 3 C 14 does not contain the book it was bound for and the original spine and pastedowns have been replaced with 19th century specimens. Whereas the front and back covers of Band 3 C 14 have the original decoration and Apollo and Pegasus device and it is therefore a binding with a certain value, the faked Band 1 D 7 intrigues because of the questions it evokes. The device on Band 1 D 7 is a 19th century artifact, probably one of the so-called Bologna fakes made by a binder/forger named Vittorio Villa of Bologna and Milan, active 1850-1892. Villa worked for a man named Monte (Helwig 1967/Nixon 1971), an antiquarian bookdealer from Bologna, later Milan, the mastermind behind the forgeries. Band 1 D 7 is consistent with Villa’s system of using genuine 16th century, undecorated bindings, to which he added the fake device and gilt decoration. For this reason a faked binding and not a forgery.

‘Old books with plain covers were bought one by one and carefully gilded on lines at first traced from true originals, ultimately, for our forger was an artist, merely copied in the same style….These bindings were largely distributed by means of public sales held from 1859 until 1866, and among them were several reputed Groliers.’ Davenport 1901. p. 390-391.

The forgeries had to be offloaded and this was where Gugliemo Libri came into the picture. Together with Monte he flooded the European rare book market with forged bindings with impressive, but faked, provenance. In addition to deceiving even the most experienced bookdealers and clients with the forgeries, among whom the king of antiquarian booksellers Bernard Quaritch, Libri was also unmasked as a big time book-thief. During his work as Chief Inspector of French Libraries, the temptation had been too much for this bibliomaniac. His inspection of exquisite old and rare works unleashed in him an unstoppable desire to own them himself, many works found their way into Libri’s possession. But Libri was not all bad even though his passion for books led him to criminal activities, he was also a forerunner in researching the history of bookbinding although, as we have seen above, his fantasy sometimes got the better of him. Libri was never held accountable for his crimes. In the footsteps of Giuseppe Fumagalli (1863-1939), who was the first to sense there was something fishy going on, many have investigated Libri’s story. Fumigalli’s biography of the fascinating Libri was never finished but Maccioni Ruji/Mostert 1995 have done a great job collecting all there is to know.


Guglielmo Brutus Icilius Timeleone Libri Carucci dalla Sommaja. c 1850.

Italian count, mathematician, book-thief, forger with a severe case of bibliomania

To follow up

Who bought the faked Band 1 D 7 from Libri in the first place? Is it listed in one of Libri’s catalogues? The University of Amsterdam owns a number of them. Was it Marchese Cesare Campori, whose ownership label we find on the verso of the title-page? Bragaglia places his ex libris ca. 1850, Campori died 1880, the time span could fit. What is the further provenance of this fake binding that convinced covetous bibliophiles and book dealers alike, even though, as we have seen, it is not of highstanding bookbinding craftsmanship? What path did Band 1 D 7 follow before ending up in the library of Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam. In this light Band 1 D 7 is at least as interesting as the genuine Apollo and Pegasus binding Band 3 C 14. It is, as Wittock 1998 confirmes, one of a series of fakes that deserve a place beside other special bindings, and that, as good hoaxes go, merits saving for posterity.

A final warning

‘In cases where fine bindings have originally been put upon books of little value, it sometimes happens that they are taken off and re-fixed upon valuable books of the proper size. This proceeding, though less distinctly fraudulent, deserves almost as strong condemnation as forgery itself, for the value of the rare binding is unfairly enhanced by its being transferred to a more interesting book’ Davenport 1901, p. 395.

Where does this leave us regarding the remboîtage of Band 3 C 14, the blind title of the original content still detectable on both covers. When and why did the remboîtage of Band 3 C 14 take place?

1 Hobson 1975, p.117-125.

2 Hobson 1975, p.3-7.

3 Hobson 1975, p.129-188.

4 Wittock 1998. p.356-62.

5 Hobson 1929, p.137.

6 Wittock 1998. p.338.

7 Hobson 1975, p.10.

8 Hobson 1975. p.9.

Provenance Band 1 D 7

Marchese Cesare Campori (1814-1880) Bibliophile and author of poetry, opera and short stories

Dr Ferdinand Talen[ct]a?

Librairie? Marcel T?ammergues?

Provenance Band 3 C 14

Giovanni Battista Grimaldi (1524-ca.1612)

Thomas Kerrich (1748-1828), Librarian of Cambridge University, Magdalene College. Bought November 2nd 1825.

According to Sotheby 1950 and Hobson 1975 p.182, but no traces of this provenance:

Lord Crewe Hungerford (1812-1893) or Richard Monckton Milnes, first Baron Houghton (1809-1895)

Richard, second Baron Houghton, first Marquess of Crewe (1858-1945)

George Alfred Kolkhorst (1897-1958) Oxford don, a lecturer and Reader in Spanish. ‘A mildly sinister, sherry-drinking reader in Spanish, who was nicknamed 'the Colonel' ‘because he behaved so utterly unlike a colonel

Bought by the University of Amsterdam from Alan Thomas Fine Books in 1963

Sales and catalogues Band 3 C 14

Catalogue of Highly Important Printed Books, Fine Bindings etc. London: Sotheby & Co., 30 October 1950. Lot 67, plate. Crewe collection.

Catalogue of the Library of Valuable Printed Books...Property of the Late G.A. Kolkhorst, Esq... London: Sotheby & Co., 23rd-24th Mar. 1959. Lot 255.

Alan G. Thomas, Catalogue 13 (1963). No. 225. Plate 2. Bought for £150.

Band 3 C 14 also in the following Alan Thomas catalogues: Cat. 6 (1960), no. 283 £150; Cat. 8 (1961), no. 226 £150; Cat. 10 (1962), no. 208 £120.

Anthony Hobson, Apollo and Pegasus. An Enquiry into the Formation and Dispersal of a Renaissance Library. Amsterdam: Gérard Th. Van Heusden, 1975. No. 131.


OTM: Band 1 D 7 at the University of Amsterdam

OTM: Band 3 C 14 at the University of Amsterdam

Band 1 D 7 and Band 3 C 14 at

An Apollo and Pegasus Binding Sold by the Order of the Trustees of the Bibliotheca Wittockiana. London: Sotheby's, 5 December 1996. Catalogue.

E. Bragaglia et al, Gli ex libris italiani: dalle origini alla fine del’Ottocento. Milano: Editrice Bibliografica, 1993. Vol. III, no.1935.

Cyril Davenport, ‘Forgeries in bookbinding.’ In: The Library: a magazine of bibliography and literature. London: Library Association of the United Kingdom. New Series 2. 1901. p. 389-395.

E. Ph. Goldschmidt, Gothic & Renaissance Bookbindings Exemplified and Illustrated from the Author’s Collection. London: Ernest Benn, Ltd., 1928. 2 vols. Vol. I: p. 279. Vol. II: plate LXXVII.

Hellmuth Helwig, ‘Vervalsers: waarom, wanneer en hoe?’ and ‘“Mekka” voor vervalsers.’ In: Over vervalsers van historische boekbanden, hun voorbeelden en slachtoffers. Zutphen: Boekbinderij Wöhrmannn & Zonen, 1967. p. 22-28 and p. 41-56.’

A. Hobson, Apollo and Pegasus. An enquiry into the formation and dispersal of a Renaissance library. Amsterdam: G.Th. van Heusden, 1975.

A. Hobson and P. Culot, Italian and French 16th Century Bookbindings. New revised edition with corrections and additions. Bibliotheca Wittockiana, 1991. p.20-29.

G.D. Hobson, 'The Great Canivari Myth'. In: Maioli, Canevari and Others. London: Ernest Benn Limited, 1926. p.120-170. Plates 59-64.

M. Jones, P. Craddock & N. Barker (eds.), Fake? The Art of Deception. London: British Musuem Publications Ltd., 1990. p.192-193.

Guglielmo Libri Carucci dalla Sommaja. Wikipedia. Retrieved June 2021.

F.& L. Macchi, Atlante della legatura italiana: il Rinascimento. Milano: Sylvestre Bonnard, 2007. p.260-62.

- - -, Dizionario Illustrato della Legatura. Milano: Sylvestre Bonnard, 2002. p. 59.

P. Alessandra Maccioni Ruju and Marco Mostert, The Life and Times of Guglielmo Libri (1802-1869) scientist, patriot, scholar, journalist and thief. A nineteenth-century story. Hilversum: Verloren Publishers, 1995. ‘Thief and forger’, p.202-231; on the Apollo and Pegasus forgeries, p.291-92.

David Mc Kitterick, Old Books, New Technologies. The Representation, Conservation and Transformation of Books since 1700. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. ‘Conservation, counterfeiting and bookbinding.’, p. 57-71.

H. Nixon, 'Binding Forgeries.' in: VI. Internationaler Kongress der Bibliophilen. Hrsg. von L. Strebl unter Mitarb. von M. Mihaliuk et al. Wien 1969. Vienna: 1971. Mainly on the forgeries made by I.F. Joni and Hagué. On Vittorio Villa: p.73-4.

Abbey Lang, “I can do only two things in this world: love and read.” -book thief Guglielmo Libri to François Guizot, 1845.’ Posted on October 22, 2012. Special Collections Processing at Penn. Penn Libraries Blogs. Retrieved June 2021.

M. Wittock, ‘À propos des reliures, vraies ou frelatées, au médaillon d’Apollon et Pégase. Une enquete à travers les sources bibliographiques.’ In: Bulletin du bibliophile. Paris: 1998. No. 1. p.330-366.

[Pam van Holthe]