This style of binding is characterized by “a continuous interlaced ribbon, bounded by a double line on one side and a single on the other, [which] divides the whole surface on both covers into symmetrical compartments of varying shapes and sizes; the central compartment is most important and may be empty; the other compartments are generally filled with gilt tooling, the ornament often including naturalistic leafy branches”. Thus A. R. A. Hobson, quoted in John Carter’s ABC for book collectors.

The lavish style was developed in Paris in the 16th century. Paradoxically its name, (in French, à la fanfare) derives from a book bound long after the popularity of the style had declined. Joseph Thouvenin revived the style in 1829 for a binding of Les fanfares et corvées abbadesques des Roule-Bontemps de la Haute et Basse Coquaine et dépendances. The book, described in the preface to an 1863 reprint as “a singular book, indeed one of the most bizarre you’ll ever see” was first printed in Chambéry in 1613. It is written in the local dialect by an author identified only as I. P. A. For those who wish to follow me down the rabbit hole, the book can be found at Google Books.

This classificatory fineness seems rather excessively detailed, but what after all are bibliophiles meant to do; they are dealing with a closed corpus, and thus can’t really be blamed for making ever finer distinctions so that they have things to talk about! One might, with a modern aesthetic, regard the fanfare binding style as rather excessively detailed too.