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Knowledge about the structure and decoration of bindings in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries is largely conjectural as very few examples have survived. The religious art of the period can contain information that may help to address the uncertainties in the historical record. This essay considers the example of when and how the technique of gold tooling was introduced to the west. Using pictorial evidence from altarpieces, it suggests that gold tooling was practiced in Italy from the start of the fourteenth century, a hundred years earlier than previously thought.