- Quarter covers are those which cover only the spine and the back edge of the boards. Books with quarter covers are also known as 'quarter bindings', sometimes qualified by the covering material on the spine, as in quarter calf. The proportion of the boards that they cover varies enormously according to where and when the books may have been bound, but the most common proportion is from about one eighth to one quarter of the board (the name presumably coming from the latter proportion). The term is problematic when applied to fifteenth-century German examples where the covering material may extend to over half of the width of the board, at which point the term 'quarter' seems inadequate. It is, however, such a firmly established term that it is not likely that it can be changed. Instead, a qualifying measurement of the proportion of the board covered in such books may need to be added where a more precise definition is required, as in "a quarter (55%) binding". The primary reason for the use of quarter covers was economy, and they are often found on bindings with other indicators of low-cost in terms of structural short-cuts and inexpensive materials. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they were also used, together with half covers to show off expensive materials on the spines of books shelved vertically with their spines outwards, in the modern manner. Quarter covers are commonly found on south German and north Italian bindings in the second half of the fifteenth and first half of the sixteenth centuries, typically used with wooden boards which remained uncovered, though in some German examples, the exposed wooden boards were sometimes decorated with blind-tooled fillets. In the sixteenth century, German binders often continued to use quarter covers of tanned or alum-tawed skin over paper boards or scaleboards, which were covered before the quarter spines were put onto the book. Any of the conventional covering materials might be used to make quarter covers, and they are found on a variety of different structures, both as primary covers and secondary covers. Unexpected combinations of materials can be found on English bindings of the late eighteenth century, such as tanned goat-skin, parchment or russia leather on the spines with marbled calf leather on the sides. Such bindings need to be carefully distinguished from those with full covers of one material and onlays on the spine of a different material, such as a high-quality tanned goatskin onlay over a full cover of calf leather. Quarter covers of leather with a plated straight-grain pattern and sides with the same straight-grain pattern and often of the same colour were popular in France in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Somewhat confusingly, quarter bindings were often described in the 18th century as 'half bindings', and care must be taken when reading such descriptions to work out exactly what is meant.
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