The Clarkson Slide Archive

Dr Christopher Clarkson was a leading authority in the conservation of medieval manuscripts and the history of medieval bookbinding, who had taught many hundreds of students and conservators globally over the last 50 years. Since the 1960s he had accumulated a collection of approximately 30,000 colour slides, recording his work and research, few of which have been shown in public and none of which have been made publicly available.

For a large part of Dr Clarkson’s working life, he has researched and expounded the techniques of medieval bookbinding. His deep understanding of the mechanics of these bindings and how they can inform contemporary practice in book conservation, and hand-binding generally, has always been supported by photographs. These photographs form a comprehensive archive of his work and thinking, far exceeding that of his published work. Some are of bindings that no longer exist and some are beginning to fade (specifically those predating his use of Kodachrome 64 film, during the 1980s).

For historians, this work provides a descriptive and illustrated catalogue of medieval bookbinding; for conservators, it is an invaluable record of the techniques and philosophy of a master of his craft based on detailed images of damage and its repair. As a public resource this collection would be of immense value to future generations working in Dr Clarkson’s field.

The aim of this project is to professionally digitize Chris Clarkson’s slides and create associated metadata for each, using his written records, to generate a bespoke database using the existing Ligatus Language of Bindings Thesaurus controlled vocabulary.

This work is undertaken by research assistants, who were trained by Chris Clarkson at the conservation school in Spoleto and is supervised by Professor Nicholas Pickwoad, Director of the Ligatus Research Centre at the University of the Arts London (UAL).