The University of Udine Ligatus Summer School 2011

Course completed.

The History of European Bookbinding 1450-1830 and Identifying and recording bookbinding structures for conservation and cataloguing.

Istituto Ellenico di Studi Bizantini e Postbizantini di Venezia, Venice (Italy)
19-23 and 26-30 September 2011
The 2011 Summer School will be run by the DIpartimento di Storia e Tutela dei Beni Culturali of the University of Udine, and will be held this year in collaboration with the Istituto Ellenico di Studi Bizantini e Postbizantini di Venezia. The individual courses will be given by the Ligatus Research Centre as described below. We are delighted to work with the University of Udine in giving these course in the historic city of Venice and particularly in the Istituto Ellenico, which has a distinguished reputation in the field of book studies. This year students will have the opportunity to see bindings in the Museo Correr, the Biblioteca Marciana and the biblioteca di San Francesco della Vigna. With access to these historic collections and the unique environment that the city offers, this year’s summer school will be a unique experience.

Summer school context:

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 different collections 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 collections. Part of this course includes technical hands-on session for the development of a digital documentation system 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 Powerpoint 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 bookbinding structures
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 relationship of these bindings with the early bindings of the Coptic and other Eastern Mediterranean cultures will be discussed, during lectures, slide-shows and demonstrations of real bookbindings from Venetian collections. This session will centre on 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 and d) methodologies and workflows for surveying collection. A large part of this session will be devoted to the actual development and use of a documentation system for recording binding structures and the actual recording of specific bindings. 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 Istituto Ellenico. We have therefore been able to reduce the cost of the course for this year to €400.00 £350.00 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 ( For information about registration please email Ewelina Warner ( 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 1st of July. The participants will be contacted by the end of July.

About the Istituto Ellenico:

The Hellenic Institute of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Studies in Venice was founded in 1955 and is housed in the building of the former Flanghinis College. The Institute’s main objective is to study Byzantine and Post-Byzantine history — focussing primarily on the history of Greek territories under Latin domination, on the basis of Italian and in particular Venetian archives — and to publish the relevant historical sources. Its old library (belonging to the former Flanghinis College) includes 2,000 volumes produced by the Greek printing houses of Venice from the 16th to the 18th century. Most of these old books come from the printing houses of Glykis and Theodosiou, and are mainly ecclesiastical works and school texts; the new library includes 30,000 volumes. The library also holds 41 Byzantine and Post-byzantine manuscripts from as early as the 12th century. The Institute's archive holds an important collection of documents from as early as 1498 which capture the history of Greeks in Venice. For more information about the Institute see:

About Venice in September 2011:

Venice always offers a number of great cultural activities including museums and churches. The summer school coincides with the Venice Biennale exhibition which is another good reason to join us this year. For a calendar of events in Venice see:

About Ligatus:

Ligatus is a research unit of the University of the Arts London with particular interest in the history of 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. Find out more about Ligatus here: