Anne Robinson, Karen Saxby
This foliage pattern was crafted to adorn a 17th-century binding of the Passion Series, originally created in 1521 by the great engraver Lucas van Leyden. This edition contains Jan Harmensz. Muller’s 17th-century copy of the work. Muller is best known for his skillful reinterpretations of the work of his predecessors.
Sunlight dapples through a wild wood in our Tree of Life cover art.
Derived from a classic binding from the French school of design, this foliage pattern was originally crafted from goatskin leather tooled in gold. The binding was designed to hold a set of 14 plates known as the Passion Series.
The original Passion Series is a famous collection of engravings, finished in 1521 by the great northern Renaissance painter and engraver Lucas van Leyden (1489/94–1533). This version, however, contains a history as tangled as the branches depicted on its cover. Despite appearing to be an exact copy of the original, it is actually an early 17th-century reproduction done by a similarly talented Dutch artist named Jan Harmensz. Muller.
Jan Harmensz. Muller (1571–1628) was a Dutch engraver, painter and publisher, best known for his skillful reinterpretations of the work of his predecessors. So specifically replicated were Harmensz. Muller’s engravings in this Passion Series, that Van Leyden’s original dates and monogram appear in Muller’s woodcut plates.
Though there is no indication that Harmensz. Muller himself was attempting to pass off his work as that of the earlier master, scratched-out marks in this edition – now held at the British Library – make clear that early owners of the work did indeed try to make it appear that they had an original Van Leyden. It is thanks to a small engraving of Muller’s name, along with that of Clement de Jonghe, the publisher of the replication, that we know this is actually a Muller reproduction.
With a unique and complicated history, this Tree of Life binding stands out not only for its original contents but for the unique pattern on its cover. May it inspire your own creative growth and bring your own creative ideas to life.