Ligatus news

Meeting with Chelsea graphics design students


I spoke to the students from the MA Graphics Design and Communication course as I am looking for student volunteers to test any Artivity tools (when they are ready) and collect some data.
I think the obstacle with students is switching away from Adobe. Adobe dominates the graphics design world and students feel that anything else will exclude them from the post-degree market.
Sadhna Jain , the course director, has flagged up the community which could be an important stakeholder.

Project meeting with Semiodesk


Had a good discussion with Sebastian and Moritz from Semiodesk today and we progressed with the plans for the project:

  • Sebastian came up with a new name: Artivity from Art and Activity which is a huge improvement over the elaborate "collecting contextual reseach data... etc."
  • we have confirmed the use of GNOME Activity journal as the software for examining/browsing the any data
  • because of the rapid development of web browsing software (especially Firefox and Chrome) the zeitgeist links to browsing history seems broken
  • we agreed to push the GUI for exporting and packaging data to phase 3
  • we will be choosing one creative application to collect data from for Phase 1 and perhaps another for Phase 2

An inboard binding with a laced cover

Dirk de Bray, in his manuscript description of the binding of books of 1658, A Short Instruction in the Binding of Books followed by a note on the gilding of edges by Ambrosius Vermerck, describes in detail how to make a typical ‘Dutch vellum binding’ or a parchment-covered laced-case binding with boards, in which the boards were added to the cover after the latter had been attached to the bookblock by lacing the sewing-support and endband slips through its joints. He follows this description by introducing briefly another way of making these bindings in which the boards are attached to the outermost endleaves before the book is covered. He describes the process as follows:

You take a book that is already finished except for the making of a vellum binding. You line a piece vellum with paper and fold the spine into it; then you take pasteboard and on one side you cut it off straight; you brush a little paste on the middle of the flyleaf and lay the cardboard on this [the straight-cut side on the spine of the book, a straw’s breadth from it] and put the whole, when it is dry, in the press; after that you trim the cardboard round the book in such a way that there is a protruding edge on it [the squares: the cardboard is a little larger than the book]; then you put it in the vellum [the spine of which has already been folded] and push the points [slips] through once only [towards the outside] and put the whole back in the press; but first you brush the cardboard [with paste] and lay the vellum on it, and only then do you put the whole in the press.
When it is dry you take the book out of the press and push the points inside; and then you fold the edges of the vellum round the cardboard; but first you tear off the flyleaf to which the cardboard was at first fixed [this turns the rest of the flyleaf into a stub], because now the cardboard is fixed to the vellum; then you poke the ends of the headband core through the folded-in vellum to create the cap. … Once the vellum has been folded round the cardboard you again brush the paste onto the flyleaf that you have just torn off [i.e. the second endpaper; this becomes the pastedown], close the book and place it in the press.

(Dirk de Bray, A Short Instruction in the Binding of Books followed by a note on the gilding of edges by Ambrosius Vermerck, Amsterdam: Atelier de Ganzenweide, 2012, pp. 96-100)

This order of construction, by adhering the boards to the bookblock before the book is covered, appears to turn these books into inboard bindings rather than laced-case bindings, but by tearing the outermost endleaf off the board before turning-in the cover, and then re-attaching it to the book by lacing the slips through its joints, the binding reverts to a laced-case binding, and should still be described as such. The description, at least as translated in the most recent facsimile edition, is confusing when it comes to the handling of the endleaves, as the leaf that has been removed from the board cannot become a pastedown if it has been torn to a stub, so either it is a stub that is pasted to the board under the next endleaf, which then becomes the pastedown, or it remains a full leaf and can then be used as a pastedown. Either way, it remains a laced-case binding.

The binding found on a book in Lambeth Palace Library (Johann Marck, In Præcipuas quasdam Partes Pentateuchi Commentarius, Leiden: Apud Samuelem Luchtmans, 1713, Lambeth Palace Library, A26.1 Ψ) as part of the survey project undertaken this January by four students on the Camberwell conservation course, appears, however, to offer yet another variation which does create an inboard binding, but which from the outside looks just like a parchment-covered laced-case binding with boards (Fig. 1). In this example, the boards were first adhered, before the cover was attached (somewhat as in de Bray), to what is now a stub with a torn edge (but which may originally have been the inner half of a complete leaf) and also to the extensions of transverse parchment spine linings, right up the spine edges of the boards (not as in de Bray, who stated that there should only be “a little paste on the middle of the flyleaf”). This results in the head and tail ends of the stubs lying under the turn-ins, which indicates that the boards were attached permanently to the endleaf stubs before the book was covered. This form of board attachment was reinforced by the fact that the extensions of the transverse spine linings were also adhered to the insides of the boards under the stubs. At head and tail, therefore, the lining extensions and the stubs crossed the joints, and this in turn meant that they had to be lifted to allow the cover to be turned in. When the binder lifted the extensions, he also lifted with them the part of the paper stub that that was pasted over them. Before pasting them back, after the cover was turned in, he cut the lining extensions short at an oblique angle, which left the exposed surface of the boards under the cut away portions clearly visible under the pastedowns, thus revealing the sequence of the binding process (Fig. 2). The sewing-support and endband slips must have been laced out through the cover as it was put onto the book and were then laced back inside the cover after it was attached to the boards. The slips therefore lie over the stubs, but underneath the pastedown. In the absence of any name in the literature, I have named this structure an 'inboard binding with a laced cover'.

A book with almost exactly the same structure, but which was never covered, survives in the Herzog August Bibliothek (Neu-Vollständigers Marggräff. Brandenburgisches Gesang-Buch, Bayreuth: Johann Gebhardt, 1660 (HAB: Yv 1278.8° Helmst)), the only difference being the use of stuck-on endbands of a typically German sort with a secondary sewing rather than the sewn endbands of the typically Dutch sort. The stub (with a torn edge) of the outermost endleaf was pasted to the inside of the board over the transverse lining extensions (Figs. 3a and 3b). Had the book ever been covered, at least part of the head and tail ends of this stub (and the endband lining extensions under them) would have needed to have been lifted in order to allow the cover to be turned-in over the head and tail edges.

Since finding the Lambeth example, I looked again at an odd volume that I have had for many years (De Spectator; of Verrezen Socrates. Zesde en laaste Deel. Uit het Engelsch vertaalt door P. le Clercq. Twede Druk, Amsterdam: By Hermanus Uytwerf, 1730), and discovered exactly the same phenomenon (Fig. 4), showing yet again how careful you need to be when observing bindings – I had never noticed this detail before. The question raised by these bindings, of course, is who used this technique, why, where and how often – and why de Bray offered his second technique as an alternative to what appears to have been the much more common laced-case technique. Or was it, in fact, rather less common than we think? Do we in fact have to go back over books already examined to check on which of the three techniques was actually used to make each one?

Nicholas Pickwoad
5 March, 2015

The photographs are shown by kind permission of Lambeth Palace Library and the Herzog August Bibliothek, with special thanks to Katharina Maehler for taking the photographs of the Bayreuth edition.

Documenting Practice - Creating art using digital tools


On the 16th of February 2015 Ligatus held a CCW workshop at Chelsea College of Arts to discuss documenting practice in art and design. This was in preparation for the "Research Data Spring" JISC sandpit. Participants included:

I started the workshop with a short introduction on the value of documenting process in the interpretation of the final output. The short presentation can be found here:

A summary of some important points made during the discussion follows:

  • Art historical research mostly relies on the output of an artist over a period of time, therefore any system to track contextual research data should be active over a long period of time.
  • Some artists consider self-archiving as a problem and distraction from their work. Collecting contextual research data automatically may solve this problem.

Rough notes from the meeting are attached - thank you Claire for producing these!

More discussions on this to follow.

PDF icon Rough workshop notes36.2 KB

IDCC - JISC special session on research data


I joined several researchers today at a special session of the 10th International Digital Curation Conference about the JISC data spring call. Many interesting ideas and presentations including a proposed project by Ximena Alarcon on sound and audio spaces.
My presentation was about recording contextual research data which are typically unavailable as part of the final research output. I have been looking at the semantic desktop ontologies (nepomuk) which offer a reasonable framework for tracking researcher's activity on the desktop. Given that much of the research is currently undertaken in front of a computer, it makes sense to employ such tools to capture contextual data.
I managed to speak to a lot of people about this project including:

  • Christopher Gutteridge with whom I discussed a number of metrics that could be considered for recording activity on the desktop, some of them being used in lifelogging (Christopher works with a lifelogging expert Ash Smith in Southampton)
    • app switches
    • computer state (screen size)
    • screen captures
    • computer movement
    • proximity with other people (bluetooth)
    • location data
  • Simon Coles who talked about a recipe book for research methods in science with similar issues to collecting contextual research data in science.

J. A. Szirmai

I have just learned that Jan Szirmai died at his home on 2 December, at the age of 89. After a career in medical research in which he became a Professor of Medecine, he learned bookbinding and book conservation and subsequently built up an extraordinary knowledge of the history of the craft, bringing to it a scientifically analytical mind. He is perhaps best known for his book The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding (Ashgate, 1999), which became immediately an invaluable work of reference, covering some 1500 years of bookbinding across Europe and the Middle East. It displayed not only his deep understanding of the making of books, but also his enviable grasp of languages that gave him access to a wide range of secondary literature. Its bibliography is invaluable in itself. Seven years earlier, he had also been one of the authors, with Kees Gnirrep, who sadly also died this year, and Peter Gumbert, of Kneep & Binding (The Hague, 1992), which broke new ground in the construction and organisation of the terminology of bookbinding. Ill health had meant that he was not seen much in public in recent years, but he has achieved the accolade of having written a book known almost universally by his name alone. The sentence 'you will find it in Szirmai' will be heard for many years to come.

Now available: The Arcadian Library : bindings and provenance

Giles Mandelbrote & Willem de Brujn, eds, The Arcadian Library : bindings and provenance, Oxford: Arcadian Library in Association with the Oxford University Press, 2014

This large and weighty volume is finally available. Containing 7 papers from a conference held in the Arcadian Library in 2008, is only now on sale - at £120. The essays are:

"Some Earlier British Owners; of Books in the Arcadian Library and their Marks of Ownership and Use" and "Princes, Ministers and Scholars: Some non-English Provenances in the Arcadian Library" by Alistair Hamilton and Giles Mandelbrote

"Three Bindings à la fanfare and the Origins of the Fanfare Style" by Anthony Hobson ;

"Selected European Decorated Bookbindings in the Arcadian Library" by Philippa Marks

"The Ottoman World of Abdallah Zakher: The Bindings of the Melkite Monastery at Shuwayr in the Arcadian Library" by John-Paul Ghobrial

"The Structures and Materials of Commercial Bookbindings in the Arcadian Library" by Nicholas Pickwoad

"Some Decorative Endpapers in the Arcadian Library" by Willem de Bruijn.

To quote from the OUP blurb: "The Arcadian Library, based in London, is one of the finest collections of books reflecting European interest in the Arab and Islamic worlds. Among its c.10,000 volumes are many copies with important provenances and fine bindings. In this companion volume to no. 8 in the series [Studies in the Arcadian library], six distinguished authorities on the history of book-collecting and the ownership and use of books, and the history of bookbinding, deal with significant aspects of the Library's holdings from these varied perspectives. ... The scholarly essays in this volume are complemented by a very large number of specially commissioned photographs, making available a wealth of comparative evidence and new examples of particular bindings, details of decoration, inscriptions and marks of ownership".

Quire tackets in early printed books

The use of quire tackets to hold the bifolia within individual gatherings together while they were written in is well known from the medieval period, but the discovery 18 months ago of quire tackets in a fifteenth-century printed book in the library at the Wellcome Institute in London, which I was examining with a Japanese student, Yuri Nomura, came as a surprise. The book is a copy of Peter Lombard, Glossa in epistolas Pauli, Esslingen: C. Fyner, not after 1473 (Wellcome Institute Library, 4.f.2) from the Augustinian Monastery of St Pancratius in Ranshofen, and then in the collection of William Morris. It is in a contemporary inboard binding sewn on three double alum-tawed supports with beech-wood boards and covered in blind-tooled dark brown tanned calf. The centre-fold of each gathering has a parchment sewing guard and underneath the sewing guards at the head and tail (and therefore not part of the sewing structure) of almost all the gatherings are lengths of thin thread, about 45-53 mm long, which formed separate loops over the head and tail edges of the gatherings and which the binder left in place when sewing the book. As the printed leaves are neither paginated nor foliated and the signatures are not signed, the quire tackets would have had the advantage of holding the bifolia within each gathering together in the right order, while manuscript catchwords on the final versos of each gathering would have allowed the binder to sew them in the right order. It may be that the quires were tacketed in the printer’s workshop.

I have since seen two other examples (one shown to me by Andrew Honey of the Bodleian Library) and I would be very interested to know if any others have been identified.

Nicholas Pickwoad
18 July 2014

The photograph is reproduced by kind permission of the Wellcome Institute Library

Anthony Hobson

It is with great sadness that we record the death on Saturday morning, 13 July, of Anthony Hobson, at the age of 92. The leading bookbinding historian of his, and indeed successive generations, his work, especially on Italian bindings of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, was outstanding and will remain a monument to a long and very active life. He was completing work on a new book when he died.

The Independent obituary
The Art Newspaper announcement

Unusual binding?

I saw this binding in the Stiftsbibliothek St Gallen earlier this year with a type of cover that I have never seen before. It is made up from two pieces of manuscript waste (written locally, 11th or 12th century), one on each side, which overlap on the spine, to which they are adhered. The spine edges of both pieces have slots cut into them to fit on each side of the sewing supports, the slips of which are laced though the sides and trapped by the pastedowns. I am thinking of calling the cover type a ‘laced comb cover’, but has anyone seen another? The book inside is: Historia dess leidens und stärbens, Konstanz: [Balthasar Romätsch],1545 (Stiftsbiblothek St Gallen, EE r V 26.1). The library has kindly given us permission to reproduce these images.


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