Nicholas Pickwoad's blog

Christopher Clarkson

I am writing to give you the sad news that Christopher Clarkson died in hospital shortly before midnight on Thursday, 30 March. I had seen him at home the previous Monday and although weak, he seemed stable and much as he had been for some weeks, but his condition suddenly deteroriated on Thursday morning and he was taken by ambulance to the hospital, by which time apparently he was all but unconscious.

The binding on the St Cuthbert Gospel

I have just received an advance copy of the British Library's new book of essays about the St Cuthbert Gospel (The St Cuthbert Gospel: Studies on the Insular Manuscript of the Gospel of St John (BL, Additional MS 89000), edited by Claire Breay and Bernard Meehan, London: The British Library, 2015). The volume celebrates the Library's acquisition of this remarkable book in 2012, and two chapters discuss the binding in detail. My own looks at the history of the study of the binding as well as its construction and the techniques used in its decoration.

An inboard binding with a laced cover

Dirk de Bray, in his manuscript description of the binding of books of 1658, A Short Instruction in the Binding of Books followed by a note on the gilding of edges by Ambrosius Vermerck, describes in detail how to make a typical ‘Dutch vellum binding’ or a parchment-covered laced-case binding with boards, in which the boards were added to the cover after the latter had been attached to the bookblock by lacing the sewing-support and endband slips through its joints.

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.

Now available: The Arcadian Library : bindings and provenance

Giles Mandelbrote & Willem de Brujn, eds, The Arcadian Library : bindings and provenance, Oxford: Arcadian Library in Association with the Oxford University Press, 2014

This large and weighty volume is finally available. Containing 7 papers from a conference held in the Arcadian Library in 2008, is only now on sale - at £120. The essays are:

Quire tackets in early printed books

The use of quire tackets to hold the bifolia within individual gatherings together while they were written in is well known from the medieval period, but the discovery 18 months ago of quire tackets in a fifteenth-century printed book in the library at the Wellcome Institute in London, which I was examining with a Japanese student, Yuri Nomura, came as a surprise. The book is a copy of Peter Lombard, Glossa in epistolas Pauli, Esslingen: C.

Unusual binding?

I saw this binding in the Stiftsbibliothek St Gallen earlier this year with a type of cover that I have never seen before. It is made up from two pieces of manuscript waste (written locally, 11th or 12th century), one on each side, which overlap on the spine, to which they are adhered. The spine edges of both pieces have slots cut into them to fit on each side of the sewing supports, the slips of which are laced though the sides and trapped by the pastedowns. I am thinking of calling the cover type a ‘laced comb cover’, but has anyone seen another?

Russia calf

This is a new feature on the Ligatus website, in which we plan to make available short essays, observations, queries and comments on matters relating to bookbinding that might not get an airing elsewhere. We will be happy to consider adding contributions from anyone who has something of relevance and interest to offer – please contact Ligatus and we will get back to you.

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