“Roger Payne (1738–97) was a book-binder of legendary skill and invention, who can be credited with the introduction of a distinctly neo-classical style of finishing, and a wholly original style of endpapering. He elevated the book-binder’s invoice to the status of a work of art. [One may been seen at Jeff Peachey’s blog, linked to below.] He also enjoys, with Samuel Mearne, the uncomfortable distinction of having more books wrongly attributed to him than any other binder of his time. Any collector, pondering the purchase of a book reported as ‘bound by Payne’, should look to see if there is some more tangible evidence, an invoice, identifiable tools or the characteristic endpapers, or whether the attribution has rather been handed down from some hopeful catalogue description of the 19th century.” (John Carter: ABC for Book Collectors)

A Payne binding from the Folger Library

Wikipedia describes his work thus: “His most significant work was executed either in Russia leather or in straight-grained Morocco, usually of a dark blue, bright red, or olive colour. The end papers were usually purple or some other plain colour.” Payne’s main patrons were Earl Spencer, the Duke of Devonshire, Colonel Thomas Stanley, and Clayton Mordaunt Cracherode, who left to the British Museum 4,500 volumes, valued at £10,000 at the time of his death in 1799.

At his blog Jeff Peachey indulges in a speculative critique of this picture of Roger Payne, who rather looks like he’s about to faint from lack of nourishment.

Portrait of Roger Payne. Source: Recent Antiquarian Acquisitions, The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

Payne certainly doesn’t look like he’s eating too well — Mr Peachey speculates that that may be his lunch heating on the fire. Though the artist may portray him as the starving artist, Payne did in fact get paid for his work as is shown by a collection of his invoices preserved at the Morgan Library in New York. However when he died on 20 November 1797, he was buried in the churchyard of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields at the expense of his old friend Thomas Payne.

Mr Peachey points out that for a bookbinder he’s doing odd things to that book, though of course that may be the fault of the artist. Trying to bend the volume by leaning on it when its fore-edge is being held for some odd reason in a clamp is not a prudent move: especially in light of the fact that Payne was notable for his use of thin boards (which never warped).

He looks in much better shape in this statue on the outside of The Victoria and Albert Museum, though the same might not be said for the book he’s holding — maybe it’s the same volume as in the other picture.