The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding

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Transcript of The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding


Preface and acknowledgements Abbreviations Part I T h e M e d i t e r r a n e a n h e r i t a g e Introduction Notes Chapter 1 T h e first single-quire Coptic codices 1.1 Introduction 1.2 T h e covers of the N a g H a m m a d i codices 1.3 Cover attachment 1.4 Typology of the N a g H a m m a d i codices 1.5 Other single-quire codices 1.6 T h e bookblock Notes Chapter 2 T h e first multi-quire Coptic codices 2.1 Introduction 2.2 T h e link stitch 2.3 Sewing 2.4 Edge treatment, e n d b a n d s and boards 2.5 Fastenings and other appendages 2.6 Papyrus codices with pasteboard covers Notes Chapter 3 Late Coptic codices 3.1 Introduction 3.2 Sewing 3.3 Boards and their attachment 3.4 Spine lining and edge trimming 3.5 Endbands 3.6 Covering 3.7 Fastenings and other appendages Notes

Chapter 4 T h e Ethiopian codex 4.1 Introduction 4.2 Sewing and board attachment 4.3 Boards and covering 4.4 E n d b a n d s 4.5 Functional aspects Notes Chapter 5 T h e Islamic codex 5.1 Introduction 5.2 Typology of the early Islamic codices 5.3 Sewing, boards and their attachment 5.4 E n d b a n d s 5.5 Covering, decoration and fastenings Notes Chapter 6 Byzantine codices 6.1 Introduction 6.2 Bookblock, endleaves and sewing stations 6.3 Sewing 6.4 M e t h o d s of board attachment 6.5 Boards 6.6 Spine treatment and trimming 6.7 E n d b a n d s 6.8 Covering and decoration 6.9 Fastenings and furnishings 6.10 Repair and rebinding 6.11 'Alia greca' bindings 6.12 Armenian bindings Notes P a r t II T h e m e d i e v a l c o d e x in the W e s t e r n w o r l d Introduction Notes Chapter 7 Carolingian bindings 7.1 Early literature and recent studies 7.2 Introduction of the sewing support 7.3 Boards and board attachment 7.4 Sewing 7.5 Endleaves 7.6 Edge trimming 7.7 E n d b a n d s

45 45 46 48 49 50 50 51 51 52 53 57 59 60 62 62 64 67 69 73 75 76 78 81 83 84 87 90

95 98 99 99 100 103 112 117 119 121

Contents 7.8 Covering and decoration 7.9 Fastenings 7.10 Functional aspects and repairs Notes Chapter 8 R o m a n e s q u e bindings 8.1 Introduction of the sewing frame 8.2 Early literature and recent studies 8.3 Bookblock and sewing stations 8.4 Endieaves 8.5 Sewing 8.6 Boards and board attachment 8.7 Edge trimming 8.8 Spine treatment 8.9 E n d b a n d s 8.10 Covering and decoration 8.11 Fastenings and furnishings 8.12 Functional aspects Notes Chapter 9 Gothic bindings 9.1 Introduction 9.2 Early literature and recent studies 9.3 Textblock and endieaves 9.4 Sewing 9.5 Spine treatment 9.6 Edge trimming 9.7 E n d b a n d s 9.8 Boards a n d board attachment 9.9 Covering 9.10 Techniques of decoration 9.11 Fastenings 9.12 Furnishings 9.13 Functional aspects Notes Chapter 10 Limp bindings 10.1 Introduction 10.2 Bookblock attachment by primary tacketing 10.3 Bookblock attachment by primary sewing 10.4 Primary sewing through rigid back plates 10.5 Bookblock attachment by secondary tacketing 10.6 Ledger bindings 127 131 132 137 140 140 140 142 146 147 151 157 157 159 162 167 169 171 173 173 174 176 180 190 197 203 216 225 241 251 263 271 275 285 285 287 291 297 304 309



10.7 Attachment by lacing-in the sewing supports Notes Bibliography Index

311 317 320 346

Preface and acknowledgements

This book evolved from a series of lectures o n the archaeology of bookbinding, that I gave as Visiting Professor on behalf of the D r P.A. Thiele Stichting, at the University of Amsterdam during the winter term of 1987. I light-heartedly accepted the assignment, assuming that it would be easy to fill the many gaps in my knowledge by consulting the big handbooks, which I expected to find in Amsterdam University Library, renowned for its rich collections in the field of book sciences. T h e shock came when I found that the h a n d books weren't there, for the simple reason that they did not exist. Except for Middleton's (1963) book devoted to English bookbinding techniques of mainly the postmedieval period, we have no comprehensive work on medieval bindings. It was indeed a shock to be faced with a virtual absence of information about the book's physical structure which is so fundamental for its function, the safeguarding of its integrity and its ultimate survival. It seems as if binding structures shared the fate of many utilitarian objects of a p r o tective nature: on becoming worn out and damaged after fulfilling their function they landed on the rubbish heap, just like r u n d o w n shoes and ragged clothing. Of no interest to their contemporaries, such objects eventually, after long centuries, became the concern of archaeologists. M a n y bindings, however, have been lost through rebinding, not because of wear and tear but because they failed to accord with the taste of the times and their owners, or clashed with a style of furniture. Since the Renaissance, this practice has been observed by countless book collectors and bibliophiles and has resulted in the annihilation of thousands of medieval bindings. Neglect and ruthless restorations have also caused considerable losses, leaving us today with no more than one to five per cent of original bindings on the surviving medieval books - an inestimable loss for the history of the book, Ironically, the aesthetic aspects of bookbindings inspired the earliest attempts to cast a scholarly eye on them: their decoration was the subject of the first studies such as those of Weale (1894-8) in England and Schwenke (1898) in Germany, to be followed by a great n u m b e r of scholars for a century to come. Focusing attention on the embellishment of the covers, with rubbings of the stamped decoration as the basic working tool and instrument to identify bindings and their origins, a new branch of book research was created for which Einbandkunde seemed to be the proper term. Yet the term - without appropriate equivalents in other languages - disguised the fact that it merely covered the history of the costume of the book, its outward appearance, utterly neglecting the internal structure. Perusal of the literature, be it concise like Breslauer's (1986) overview with 195 references or the almost complete bibliography of Schmidt-Kimsemuller (1987) with 8000 entries, reveals that no more than 10 per cent is concerned with binding techniques and binding structures.

Whereas the majority of scholars of previous generations avoided the structural aspects, exceptions must be acknowledged: T h e o d o r Gottlieb ( 1 8 6 9 - 1 9 2 9 ) , Ernst Philip Goldschmidt ( 1 8 8 7 - 1 9 5 4 ) , T h e o d o r e C. Petersen (1883-1966) and G r a h a m Pollard ( 1 9 0 3 - 1 9 7 6 ) are among those who were eager to uncover technical details hidden u n d e r the outer lustre, admittedly an arduous task for the uninitiated in the craft. F o r craftsmen, examination of their own past had been easier, and we owe gratitude for the wealth of observations recorded by binders like Paul Adam ( 1 8 4 9 - 1 9 3 1 ) and Berthe van Regemorter ( 1 8 7 9 - 1 9 6 4 ) . But even they sometimes lost their footing on the slippery road a n d could n o t avoid fallacies. As pioneers are torchbearers, they themselves are easily blinded; yet their achievements deserve to be honoured by careful and critical reassessment of their work rather than by perpetuation of their mistakes in blind admiration of their authority. Misconceptions of the past tend to persist especially when progress is slow, as indeed it has been: Weale (1894-8) used 38 pages of a total of 484 (8 per cent) for a concise, lucidly illustrated and essentially still valid technical introduction; one h u n d r e d years later, a recent Einbandkunde (Mazal 1997) of 516 pages offers the reader 30 pages (5.8 per cent) on the techniques of binding and decoration, most of it rehashed biases and downright falsehoods, with hardly any basic information. It is high time that we, leaving behind us and forgiving the errors and shortcomings of our predecessors, focus critical attention on what should be undertaken today to make up for past negligence. First of all, we must make sure not to lose those very few objects left which we so badly need for our research. We must, however late, at last respond to w a r n ings we failed to take seriously, like Wattenbach's (1871 p . 231): Es ist immer eine grosse Barbarei, wenn man, zvie das besonders in fruher Zeit hufig geschehen ist, ohne Noth die urspmnglichen Einbnde serstort', or as expressed by Goldschmidt (1928 p. 123): ' O u r knowledge [ . . . ] is far too limited to permit us to judge what essential data we may be destroying when we allow an old book to be handed over to a binder "to b e restored". T h e r e is no such thing as restoring an old binding without obliterating its entire history'. It is satisfying that there are some signs of progress: the disdain for bookbinding as a subject unworthy of any scientific interest is gradually decreasing, and codicologists and bibliographers are beginning to appreciate that the physical evidence associated with binding structures contains irreplaceable information (Foot 1993; Budny 1994). Book restorers and conservators likewise are starting to perceive that old binding structures are a rich source of knowledge and insight, and a dependable guide in dealing with the aged objects entrusted to their care. Here a great deal of credit must go to Roger Powell ( 1 8 9 6 - 1 9 9 0 ) , only recently honoured with a p o s t h u m o u s Festschrift (see Sharpe 1996b); his respectful approach in dealing with those fragile ancient manuscripts has become the inspiration to a new generation of learned conservators, among them Christopher Clarkson and Nicholas Pickwoad.i

Growing concern with preservation of medieval bindings is attested by undertakings such as the census initiated in the early 1980s by the Istituto centrle per la patolgia del libro in R o m e , an ambitious project still in process (Federici 1986; 1 9 9 0 - 9 1 ; 1993;