A curious blank book bound in France around 1810. The rectos of the first three leaves bear a few workaday manuscript ledger expenses, dated 1860-1, but the remaining 633 laid-paper leaves are entirely blank—at least at first glance. In a raking light, however, we discover that to the rectos of each leaf are rows of blind-embossed dots. The dots, which mostly occur in groups of four, like the pips on a die, are in some places "connected" by blind lines joining the opposite vertices, forming Xs. These Xs are arranged in rectilinear rows, the designs and patterns differing slightly from page to page. Complicating matters, a few leaves are untouched, while on versos of others some of the dots bear minute traces of a red pigment not unlike vermilion. No satisfying theory about the nature of these dots, nor the ultimate purpose of the book, has emerged, and it remains mysterious on many levels. A remarkable and handsome artifact of the Empire, well worth study.
Sixteenmo, 121 x 93 x 88 mm (binding); 118 x 90 x 85 mm (text block).  ff, trimmed watermarks unidentifiable, leaves evidently gathered in sixteens. Contemporary diced black morocco, tooled in gilt on spine in three compartments with vased fleurons and Imperial eagles (dating the book to about 1810); boards edges and perimeters tooled with decorative gilt rolls; thick, single-core headbands integrally sewn in blue and pink silk; edges sprinkled blue. Binding with some wear and abrasions; upper hinge separating at tail; lower marbled free endpaper wanting; upper pastedown unstuck, revealing a Bradel-style board-attachment structure using four strips of manuscript vellum. Interior: A few leaves finger-soiled, otherwise fine.
Anonymous ledger of expenses dated 1860-1861 to first pages, inked-out custodial signature to last page, a few modern booksellers' penciled stock numbers to endleaves.