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Lewis, Charles (1786-1836) (DNB00)


LEWIS, CHARLES (1786–1836), bookbinder, born in London in 1786, was fourth son of Johann Ludwig, a political refugee from Hanover, and brother of Frederick Christian Lewis [q. v.] and of George Robert Lewis [q. v.] In 1800 he was apprenticed by his own desire to the eminent bookbinder H. Walther. After he had spent five years in the forwarding department, Walther refused his request to enter the finishing shop. Lewis thereupon laboured at the fine work after the day was over until two or three o'clock in the morning. On leaving Walther he entered as a journeyman several other shops, finally commencing business on his own account in Scotland Yard. He subsequently removed to more commodious premises in Denmark Court, and latterly to Duke Street, St. James's. With C. Kalthoeber he was largely employed by William Beckford on the Fonthill library. T. F. Dibdin was a great admirer of his work and of his ‘good nature and civility,’ and recommended him to Heber and Lord Spencer. Unremitting attention to business predisposed him to apoplexy, of which he died on 8 Jan. 1836. He was succeeded by his eldest son.

Lewis's bindings are characterised by elegant and classic taste. According to Dibdin ‘he united the taste of Roger Payne [q. v.] with a freedom of forwarding and squareness of finish very peculiar to himself.’ He excelled in the mechanical parts of his craft, and ‘his books appear to move on silken hinges.’ He was also very successful in book restoration. His chief colours were buff or subdued orange for russia bindings, and French grey for morocco. Francis Bedford lived with Lewis for some time, and carried on later Lewis's tradition and style as opposed to the more ornate school of Rivière. Lewis's head is engraved in Dibdin's ‘Bibliographical Decameron.’

[Gent. Mag. 1836 pt. ii. pp. 439, 450; Bookbinder, ii. 171, iii. 187; Cundall on Bookbindings, p. 106; Dibdin's Decameron, ii. 521 sq.; Cat. of Exhibition of Bookbindings at Burlington Fine Arts Club (1891); Quaritch's Facsimiles from Examples of Bookbinding, p. 35.]

G. G.