The repair and re-use of Byzantine wooden bookboards in the manuscript collection of the monastery of St Catherine, Sinai

TitleThe repair and re-use of Byzantine wooden bookboards in the manuscript collection of the monastery of St Catherine, Sinai
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsHoney, A., and Velios A.
Refereed DesignationRefereed
Conference NameHolding it all together - conference on ancient and modern joining, repair and consolidation
Conference Start Date21/02/2008
Conference LocationLondon
EditorAmbers, J., Higgitt C., Harrison L., and Saunders D.
ISBN Number9781904982470

The library at the monastery of St Catherine, in Sinai, Egypt is famed for its collection of 3,300 bound manuscripts, over half of which were written before 1500. While Greek manuscripts form the clear majority of the holdings, the collection includes Arabic, Georgian, Slavonic, Syriac, and Ethiopic manuscripts and it has the largest collection of Byzantine bookbindings to have survived.
This paper will look at the repair and re-use of wooden book boards within Byzantine book bindings and is based on a detailed condition assessment of the manuscript volumes carried out between 2001 and 2006 by an international team of conservators. Although the survey was designed to provide a condition assessment of the manuscripts, the rarity of the material demanded that the survey also included a comprehensive description of the materials and structures of the books. This has resulted in a comprehensive record of both the repair and re-use of Byzantine wooden bookboards. The isolation and desert environment of the monastery, and short supply of wood has resulted in many thread, splint and adhesive repairs to wooden bookboards. The form of repair, often relying on techniques derived from Byzantine Greek style bookbinding, points to them being carried out within the monastery or by early binders. This paper will analyse the 198 cases of wooden boards with early repairs found at the monastery and provide a typology of these repairs, it will also investigate 43 cases of composite boards.
The information gathered by the survey will allow the board damage to be compared to the board thickness, grain direction, and general wood type. Detailed drawings of the inner face of each bookboard, as well as photographs of both faces of each board, which were carried out as part of the survey and will allow for detailed investigation of board repairs.

Refereed DesignationRefereed
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