Ligatus Summer School 2010

Ligatus Summer School 2010

The History of European Bookbinding 1450-1830


Identifying and recording Byzantine bookbinding structures for conservation and cataloguing.

Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbuttel (Germany)
2-6 and 9-13 August 2010.

The 5th Ligatus Summer School, following the success of the courses in Volos, Patmos and Thessaloniki, is to be held this year in collaboration with the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, near Braunschweig, in northern Germany. This is an exciting new venture for us, and the opportunity to use books from this magnificent collection in our courses, will make this year’s summer school a memorable experience.

About the course:
The contribution that bindings can make to our understanding of the history and culture of the book is often neglected, but they can offer insights into the study of readership, the booktrade, and the provenance of books which are often not available elsewhere. In order to realise this potential, it is important to understand not only the history of the craft but also to learn how to record what is seen in a consistent and organised way. Librarians, cataloguers, conservators, book historians and all scholars who work with early books, need therefore to understand the structure and materials of the bindings they encounter in order to be able to record and describe them. Such descriptions of bindings are not only valuable for the management of library collections, pursuing academic research and making informed decisions about conservation, but are also important for digitisation projects as they can radically enrich the potential of image and text metadata. It is our belief that bindings should be seen as an integral part of the book, without which, our understanding of the history and use of books is often greatly circumscribed.

The purpose of the summer school is to uncover the possibilities latent in the detailed study of bookbinding and it mainly focuses on books which have been bound between the fifteenth and the early nineteenth century. While both courses concentrate in particular on the structure and materials of bookbindings, each of the two courses offered in this summer school looks at bindings from different geographical areas and with a different approach. The first course looks at the history of bookbinding as it was carried out in Europe in the period of the hand press (1450-1830), with the opportunity to look at examples from the collection during the afternoons, while the second course looks at the development of bookbinding in the eastern Mediterranean and gives hands-on training in how to observe and record bindings, again working with examples from the collection. Part of this course will include the construction of an XML data structure (schema) for recording bookbindings.

The courses are taught in English and each is open to 12 participants. Although the courses can be attended individually, participants are encouraged to attend both courses in order to get a more complete understanding of the issues discussed, through the comparison of the wide range of bookbindings considered in each week. Since these are not beginner-level courses, the participants are expected to be familiar with bookbinding terminology and have a basic knowledge of the history of book production in the periods under discussion. A basic understanding of the use of databases is also desirable for those who will attend the course in the second week.

Description of courses:

Week 1, European Bookbinding 1450-1830
Tutor: Professor N. Pickwoad
This course will follow European bookbinding from the end of the Middle Ages to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, using the bindings themselves to illustrate the aims and intentions of the binding trade. A large part of the course will be devoted to the identification of both broad and detailed distinctions within the larger groups of plain commercial bindings and the possibilities of identifying the work of different countries, cities, even workshops without reference to finishing tools. The identification and significance of the different materials used in bookbinding will be examined, as well as the classification of bookbindings by structural type, and how these types developed through the three centuries covered by the course. The development of binding decoration will be touched on, but will not form a major part of the discussion.

The course consists of ten 90-minute sessions with slide-show presentations (over 800 images will be shown). Actual examples of bindings will be shown in the first four afternoon sessions while the final afternoon will look at bookbinding terminology and offer the opportunity for the discussion of questions and issues raised during the week.

Week 2, Identifying and recording Byzantine bookbinding structures for conservation and cataloguing.
Tutors: Dr. G. Boudalis and Dr. A. Velios
This five-day course will be divided in two interconnected sessions. The first session, run by Dr. Georgios Boudalis, will focus upon the major structural and decorative features of the Byzantine and post-Byzantine bookbindings and their evolution in time and space. The relation of these bindings with the early bindings of the Coptic and other Eastern Mediterranean cultures will be discussed, during lectures, slide-shows and hands-on sessions. This session will centre the influences and comparisons of these different bookbindings. It will consist of eight 90-minute computer presentations supplemented by hands-on sessions.
The second session will be run by Dr. Athanasios Velios and will deal with the data management and storage of bookbinding descriptions. Alongside a brief reference to the relational databases this session will mainly involve discussions on a) the semantic web and XML, b) schemas and terminologies for bookbinding descriptions, c) commercial and open source software options for XML data and d) methodologies and workflows for collection surveys. A large part of this session will be devoted to the actual development and use of an XML schema for recording binding structures. This session will consist of two 90-minutes presentations and eight 90-minutes hands-on workshops. Basic knowledge of database use is desirable for this course.

The courses are supported by Ligatus and the University of the Arts, London, with generous help from the Herzog August Bibliothek. We have therefore been able to reduce the cost of the course for this year to £320 per week, excluding travel, meals and accommodation.
A number of accommodation options will be provided to the participants. A detailed schedule of the courses can be sent upon request. Applications, including a short CV can be submitted online Ligatus Summer School For information about registration please email Ewelina Warner (e.warner(at) and mark the message subject with: 'Ligatus Summer School'. A reading list will be sent to those who will attend the courses in advance. Deadline for applications is the 11th of June. The participants will be contacted by the end of June.

About the library:
Wolfenbüttel is a small town in Lower Saxony, Germany, located on the Oker river about 13 kilometres south of Brunswick (Braunschweig), at the edge of the Hartz Mountains. It became the residence of the dukes of Brunswick in 1432 but the first known library in Wolfenbüttel was that of the Duke Julius (1528-1529), the first protestant ruler of the duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg. This library was transferred in 1618, on the orders of his grandson, Friedrich Ulrich (1591-1634), to the university of Helmstedt, founded in 1576. The Herzog August Bibliothek in its present form started its life as the private library of the Duke August (1579-1666), and by the time of his death, the library was one of the greatest collections in Europe, containing 135,000 painstakingly catalogued printed books and 3000 manuscripts.

The library continued to grow under his immediate descendants in later seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries, with both Gottfried Wilhelm Liebnitz and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing serving as librarians, and was then housed in a splendid circular building, finished in 1713, built by the Duke Anton Ulrich, which was the first free-standing secular library building in Europe. In 1810 the library of the University of Helmstedt was returned to Wolfenbüttel, and other notable collections, both from later generations of the ducal family and other aristocratic families, were added to the Biblioteca Augusta, as the Duke August’s own collection is known.

The current library building was opened in 1887, and new reading rooms, exhibition spaces and other facilities have been added in nearby buildings in more recent times. In 1983, the library was established as an independent research centre by the State of Lower Saxony, with an active programme which allows approximately 150 scholars to work in the library each year and the addition of a large reference collection to support the study of the early books. In addition, since that time there has been an active programme of acquisitions of both printed books and manuscripts of all ages, building on the strengths of the collection and embarking in new directions. The library is now designated as the national repository for printed books of the seventeenth century. It is remarkable in having maintained its collection virtually intact since the seventeenth century.

A good introduction to the library and its collections can be found in A Treasure House of Books: the library of the Duke August of Brunwick-Wolfenbüttel, Wolfenbüttel, 1998.

Ligatus is a research unit of the University of the Arts London with particular interest in the history bookbinding, book conservation, archiving and the application of digital technology to these fields. Ligatus’s main research projects currently include the conservation of the books in the library of St Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai and the development of a multi-lingual glossary of bookbinding terms.