Otto Hupp Cut-Leather Binding


M. Winslow Lundy

Noteworthy among the books recently cataloged for the Rare Book Collection is an exquisite little volume of a London edition of the Book of Common Prayer published circa 1885. The brown calf binding was decorated with the cuir-ciselé technique of cutting into dampened leather with a pointed tool, leaving the resulting design and lettering in relief. Bound for Helen C. Weber in 1885, the front cover is embellished with her initials, the coat-of- arms of her father, a German doctor, and the motto "Deus ante omnia amandus." The edges of the volume are gilt and gauffered, eight brass bosses adorn the corners of the covers and a brass clasp on a leather strap keeps it tightly closed. The binder, Otto Hupp (1859-1949), signed his work on the back cover with his initials and the logo of a bird with outstretched wings. Hupp, a graphic artist who designed books, bindings, bookplates, and endpapers, emphasized heraldic devices in his work. He published many designs employing coats-of-arms in the Münchener Kalendar, an almanac-calendar published from 1885 through 1936.

In 1898, Helen Weber married Edwin Waterhouse, one of the founders of the accounting firm Price Waterhouse. She kept her small prayerbook until 1931 when she presented it to a Maj. and Mrs. Lugard. In an accompanying letter, Helen Waterhouse expresses her great affection for the small volume, noting the many years she used it and that she had once dropped it from the top of an omnibus - with only slight damage to the first page! She describes the binder as a "great friend who owned a large leather factory, many years ago, " and she notes that the crest on the front cover is that of her father. The volume is the gift to Bryn Mawr of Dr. and Mrs. Frederick E. Maser in honor of Willman Spawn, Honorary Curator of Bookbinding.

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