Reflections on Bindings: Lady Justice

March 19, 2014

Giffen, Hubert van, ca. 1533-1604. Commentarius D. Huberti Giphanii … in quator libros Institutionum iuris civilis à Iustiniano … [Commentery on the Institutes of Justinian by Hubert van Giffen]. Frankfurt: Sumptibus Lazari Zetzneri bibliopolæ, 1606.

This book contains a commentary on the Institutes of Justinian written by Dutch-born German jurist and philologist Hubert van Giffen. The text is printed in black ink on handmade paper and sewn onto split thongs. The book has laced-in wooden boards and is covered in alum-tawed pigskin blind-tooled with decorative rolls and central panel stamps. The stamps show Justice and Lucretia.

The curators used different RTI modes to examine the text included in the panel stamps on the front and back of this binding.  Both of the modes shown below revealed the texts in fairly clear detail.


IUSTICIAQVEQVIS                                          CASTATULATMAGN

PICTURALUMINECE                                          AFORMAELUCRELA

RNISDICDEVSESTIV                                         VDEFACTATMAGEST

Using the text we found a number of other images of Lady Justice on other bindings, such as the ones below:


Lady Justice Stamp, EBDB           Lady Justice Stamp, BSG

A visual comparison of 16th-century, German alum-tawed bindings in the British Library (BL) database also revealed what appears to be an exact match of both the front and back stamps. The volume in the BL is Antonini Liberalis Transformationum congeries (the Transformations or Metamorphoses) of Ancient Greek grammarian Antoninus Liberalis, printed in Basel in 1568. The book shares almost the same decorative program as the Commentarius, with central panel stamps and a decorative roll of portrait busts (of Protestant reformers such as Erasmus) separated by foliage. The portrait bust roll used on Commentarius lacks identifying names.  It is possible that the two books were bound in the same workshop.

RTI of Commentarius, back and front                     Photograph of Lady Justice and Lucretia stamps, BL


RTI of roll from Commentarius                                   Photographs of rolls, BL

      –Notes by Fionnuala Gerrity

“Reflections on Bindings: Using New Imaging Technology to Study Historical Bindings,” is on display from February 3 - May 24, 2014, on Level L2 in the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.  The curators are Chief Conservator Christine McCarthy and Conservation Assistants Fionnuala Gerrity, Ansley Joe, and Karen Jutzi, Yale University Library.

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