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Proverbes, ecclesiastes or preacher Richard Jugge c1550This beautifully bound book, Proverbes, Ecclesiastes or Preacher, was bound by Richard Jugge in London in about 1550.  Its leather boards have been decorated with gold tooling, a technique invented two hundred years earlier in the Arab world which arrived in Europe via Italy’s trading ports, in the middle of the 15th century.


Richard Jugge (1531-77)  was an English printer and bookseller who kept a shop ‘at the sign of the Bible’ close to the north door of old St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Educated at Eton, he went up to King’s College, Cambridge but left without taking a degree.  It is thought he began to print books around 1548.  Two years later he was granted a licence to print the New Testament in English and subsequently a seven-year patent to print all common law books. He was one of the first printers to join the Stationer’s Company (founded in 1403, the Guild of Stationers was originally a fraternity of booksellers who copied and sold manuscript books), serving annual terms as a company warden on several occasions in the early to mid 1560s and as its master into the 1570s.  He was appointed Queen’s Printer (along with John Carwood, who had been printed to Queen Mary) shortly after Elizabeth I ascended the throne.

Jugge (sometimes recorded as Judge, or Gugge) is thought to have printed around 70 books over his career.  As typified the times, most of these were devotional and religious texts and his editions of the Bible and the New Testament displayed fine typography: Jugge was ‘unrivalled for the richness of his initial letters, and for the handsome disposition of the text’ (Dictionary of National Biography).  It seems however that Jugge struggled to keep up with the volume of work that came his way and at one point he was ordered to produce only small Bibles, leaving larger and more time-consuming Bible printing to others.  Jugge died in 1577 and for a few years his business was continued by John Jugge, probably his son. John himself died around 1579 when Richard’s widow, Joan, took on the business  and continued to print books until 1587 although at a much diminished rate.

The National Library of New Zealand, which holds the volume, describes the binding as “16th century calfskin with gilt arabesque panel stamped on front and back boards, spine bands raised, spine stamped with gilt fleurons, cloth ties”. Panel stamping involves using a rectangular tool with a pictorial or abstract designs to press gold-leaf onto the cover of a book.  A time-saving measure, and cheaper to do that the labour-intensive alternative of building up a pattern by repeated stamping with smaller, individual tools, the technique was frequently used on smaller books.

The book contains an inscription in Latin: “”Margarett Willoughby me possidett. Donum Elizabethe Beaumonte q[ui] obiit apud Coombe … de Gittesham die veneris 4to die Martii … 1613 …” which translates to something like ‘Margarett Willoughby owns this, the gift of Elizabeth Beaumonte who died at Coombe, Gittesham, 4 March… 1613″.   Combe, the local manor house near the village of Gittisham in Devon was around that time occupied by Thomas Beaumont MP and his wife, Elizabeth.  It found its way into the collection of Sir Robert Harmsworth (1st Baron Harmsworth, a renowned book and manuscript collector, as well as an MP and businessman).  Harmsworth died in 1937 and this volume and was included as lot 2466 in the catalogue when his collection was sold in 1946.  It was donated to the Alexander Turnbull Library by Sir Arthur Howard (another English book and bible collector and MP, the son-in-law of British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin) in 1973; the Alexander Turnbull Library has been held by the National Library of Zealand since 1918 when Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull gifted his collection to the nation.