|Around 1600 AD, the
only people that would read and write were the educated, wealthy
and the clergy. Even though the printing press was around, many
books were still hand written and they were very precious, so covers
were elegantly decorated. Books were passed from hand to hand as
people loaned and borrowed these treasures, since there were so
few of them.
To make such a book,
oil paint was floated on top of water and the colors were gently
intermingled using a thin stick that was drawn through the paint
like icing. Then the artist would carefully place fabric onto
the water surface. The material would soak up the paint as it
lay on the water, then the cloth was laid out to dry. When it
was ready, glue was smeared on the outside of the boards (usually
sheets of wood) and the material was wrapped around the outside
and rubbed smooth, then the corners were reinforced to protect
from wear and tear.
Each design was unique,
and its owner could be identified by its cover even if someone
who could not read saw the title, and so this decorative technique
became quite popular.