Ligatus Summer School 2014

Course completed.
  • 22 – 26 September: The History of European Bookbinding 1450-1830.
  • 29 September – 3 October: Identifying and recording bookbinding structures of the Eastern Mediterranean.
  • 6 – 10 October: Byzantine Bookbinding: A Practical Workshop.

This year’s Ligatus Summer School will take place in the beautiful city of Ljubljana in Slovenia, and will be hosted by the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia.

The price is £300 per week per participant, and this includes fees for teaching only. Travel, food and accommodation would need to be arranged individually by each student.

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 that 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, book collectors and all scholars who work with early books, can benefit therefore from understanding 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 main purpose of the summer school is to uncover the possibilities latent in the detailed study of bookbinding. While our courses concentrate in particular on the structure and materials of bookbindings, each of the 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. The second course looks at the development of bookbinding in the eastern Mediterranean and gives instruction in a) the development manufacture of specific aspects of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine bindings and b) the development of methodologies and tools for recording bindings, working with examples from the collections in Ljubljana. We are also in a position this year, thanks to the generosity of our hosts, the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia, to offer as an extra third week from 6-10 October, a 5-day course, Byzantine bookbinding: a practical workshop, to be given by Dr George Boudalis.
The courses are taught in English, and the first one is open to 12 participants, the second and third to no more than 10 participants. Although the courses can be attended individually, participants are encouraged to attend the first two 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. For the second week the participants need to have a basic understanding of the use of databases. For the third week, experience in binding books is essential.

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 afternoon sessions in a variety of historic collections in Ljubljana.

Week 2, Identifying and recording bookbinding structures of the eastern Mediterranean

Tutors: Dr. G. Boudalis and Dr. A. Velios
This course is divided into two interconnected sessions.
Dr. Georgios Boudalis, will focus on the major structural and decorative features of the different bookbinding traditions which have developed in the eastern Mediterranean –including the Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Georgian and Islamic - with special focus on the Byzantine and post-Byzantine bookbindings. The aim is to follow the evolution of these closely related bookbindings and establish their similarities and differences during lectures, slide-shows and demonstrations of real bookbindings from the collections of the Archives. This part of the course will consist of six 90-minute presentations from Monday to Wednesday.
The other part of the course will be taught by Dr. Athanasios Velios and will deal with the methodologies and techniques that can be used to record bookbindings. After an introduction on the capacity and scope of each methodology and technique, this session will focus on a) the semantic web and the CIDOC conceptual reference model, b) standardised vocabularies for book descriptions (SKOS), c) the development of database schemas for both the relational and the hierarchical model, d) the advantages of various implementation tools and e) photographic records and workflows for large collection surveys. A part of this session will be devoted to the actual development and use of a sample of a bookbinding glossary, a documentation system for recording binding structures and the actual recording of specific bindings. This session will consist of six 90-minute presentations from Monday to Wednesday and hands-on workshops on Thursday and Friday.

Week 3, Byzantine bookbinding: a practical workshop

Tutor: Dr. G. Boudalis
The aim of this five-day workshop is to produce a model book bound according to typical Byzantine techniques, starting from the sewing of the gatherings and ending with the fastenings and decoration of the cover. A general introduction to the features and evolution of Byzantine bookbinding will be provided and different variations of methods for sewing the bookblock, attaching the boards and sewing the endbands will be shown and explained.
If participants prefer to bring their own materials they should first consult the course tutor about this before doing so.


For accommodation, please visit the following website Accommodation in Lubljana The Archives are located within a walking distance from almost all hotels and hostels. 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 e-mail Ewelina Warner ( and give the e-mail subject as: 'Ligatus Summer School'. A reading list will be sent in advance to those who will attend the courses.

Applications deadline

The deadline for applications is 1 July. The participants will be contacted by the end of July.

About the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia

The main building of the Archives is the listed Gruber Palace, which was begun in 1773 by the Jesuit Gabriel Gruber; it survives as a precious art-historical monument. The main staircase and rooms are filled with paintings and stucco decoration, the private chapel has paintings by Kremser-Schmidt, and a fresco by Herrlein adorns the dome above the staircase. It is a fine example of the bourgeois Baroque style of the last quarter of the 18th century. The atmosphere is completed by paintings in the reading room that date back to the first half of the 19th century. The Archives as an institution dates back to 1859, when it was part of the Carniolan Historical Society Museum. When the museum was given its own building in 1887, the all the archives were kept in the Gruber Palace and through the many political changes that followed, its name changed many times as its size and significance grew, finally to become the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia.
To find our more about the history of the Archive, please visit:

About the Book and Paper Conservation Centre

The Book and Paper Conservation Centre was established in 1956 as part of the museum which was the predecessor of the National Museum of Modern History. Since 1980 the department has been part of the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia located in the premises of the Grubar palace. The work of the centre is divided into three periods: its beginnings at the Museum of the National Liberation PRS under the leadership of Ljudmila Krese, 1956 to 1974; the incorporation into the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia, under the leadership of Nada Čučnik Majcen 1975 to 1983; its time at the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia (subsequently the National Archives of Slovenia) from 1990, under the leadership of Jedert Vodopivec, who is our host for our Summer School.
The classes and workshops will therefore be hosted by the Book & Paper Conservation Centre, which is a part of the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia and based also in the Gruber Palace.
To find out more, please visit:

About Ljubljana

With its 280,000 inhabitants Ljubljana is the political and cultural heart of the Slovenian nation. It is an important European commercial, business, exhibition and congressional centre, as well as the transport, science and education centre of Slovenia. It is located in the heart of the country between Apls and Karst and is full of parks and green spaces, beautiful street and squares. For centuries Lubljana was a capital of the historical Carniola region on the crossroads of Slavic and Germanic cultures. Its historic city centre remains largely intact, with the oldest preserved architecture dating back to the Roman period, and although the outline of the old town dates from the Middle Ages, most of it was rebuilt after 16th century in the Baroque style. We are reliably informed that the weather in late September/early October is likely to be perfect - warm and sunny without being too hot.
For more information about Lubljana, please visit:

About Ligatus

Ligatus is a research centre 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 the exploration and exploitation of 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 thesaurus of bookbinding terms.