05 July 2013

"Tree-calf" explained

Mark Twain, deploring the prose of James Fenimore Cooper:
“when a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship’s Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a negro minstrel in the end of it.”
That comes from the infamous essay “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses,” which I was delighted to read decades ago.  At the time I didn't pay attention to "tree-calf," but it caught my eye yesterday.

I found the explanation at Pazzo Books (whence the embedded top image):
Named for the tree-like design left behind by the treatment with acidic chemicals, tree-calf (and it’s less arboreal cousin, acid calf) were popular binding choices from the late 18th century until well into the 19th.
When I worked as a librarian, I remember reshelving some books that looked like these.  I never knew there was a term for the style.  You learn something every day.

Addendum"Friendship's Offering" explained.

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