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.

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