Ligatus news

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. Following CT scans of the left board it is now possible for the first time to understand how the raised decoration was executed. The second chapter, by Leslie Webster of the British Museum, discusses the decoration, its origins and it symbolism. Three appendices describe the analytical work which was also carried out. Other chapters look at the text, Irish pocket gospel books, the cult of St Cuthbert and the history of the manuscript before and after the reformation.

Artivity meeting in Germany


Last week I was in Germany to meet Sebastian Faubel and Moritz Eberl from Semiodesk. We had a great meeting and laid the plans for Phase 2 and 3 of the project. We discussed the new ppa Ubuntu Linux repository for Artivity and some interesting ideas for visualising Artivity data. Much of the data that Artivity deamon collects makes sense in relation to time. Plotting the data on a two-dimensional graph with time on the x-axis and events on the y-axis looks like a reasonable option. We were discussing of integrating the various types of events on one chart and allowing some comparison of the sequence of events as they appear superimposed on top of each-other.

We will also integrate the type of music being played from Rhythmbox as separate events.

Sebastian and Moritz have also been in touch with the Inkscape core developer community and are discussing the integration of the Artivity code upstream. Adoption by the Inkscape developers would mean that they can then provide hooks for measuring the popularity of various Inkscape features which may be useful for design decisions in the following versions, so we are positive that they will adopt our changes.

It was a good meeting followed by a great dinner.


You are cordially invited to the Ligatus and CERL Bookbinding Seminars, Plenary Session and Reception that will take place on 23rd June 2015 at Chelsea College of Arts, 16 John Islip Street, London SW1P 4JU.
Places are limited therefore early booking is recommended.

For bookbinding seminars please book your place at UAL e-store.

To reserve a place at plenary session and reception, please email: or

PDF icon Ligatus and CERL Programme 115.23 KB

First Artivity browser screenshots


Just had another meeting with Sebastian and Moritz from Semiodesk about Artivity. We discussed some new metrics that can be calculated on Inkscape and svg files. The metrics are described in the deliverables file which is now hosted on the project's bitbucket repository over here.
We also have a few first screenshots of the Artivity browser: the Gnome Activity Journal plugin which allows browsing data collected from Inkscape. In the next blog entry I will need to outline how the whole system will work in relation to the existing tools.

Artivity update - meeting with Semiodesk


I had another good meeting with the Sebastian and Moritz from Semiodesk
Their new website is up and running and it features Artivity as one of the projects they are working on.
We discussed some of the proposed metrics to capture for Artivity and talked a bit longer about the concept of confidence in the use of creative applications. We also talked about exporting Artivity data as RDF using entities from the CIDOC-CRM combined with concepts from the zeitgeist ontology.
Sebastian and Moritz have setup an Ubuntu ppa with the software they are working on so it should be very easy now to install and try the software. I am going to download the latest version of Ubuntu GNOME and give it a go.
Keep an eye on the project bitbucket repository which will soon have the project management document with the detailed specification as well.
In the meantime a very relevant event takes place this week in Toronto: this year's Libre Graphics Meeting and particularly an Inkscape Hackfest.

CCW documenting practice meeting


Thanks to Claire (Mokrauer-Madden) another CCW graduate school meeting about documentation took place today. Claire circulated a few questions which were useful as a starting point for discussion:

  • Do you document your process? Why or why not?
  • How do you document your process and/or final output?
  • What problems or issues crop up in the area of personal archiving?
  • What role does technology play in your documentation?

The discussion has been recorded and a more detailed record may become available at the CCW blog but some points that I thought were stronger follow:

  • Creators do engage in documentation in one way or another with some reasons being:
    • the value of connecting ideas and concepts,
    • the type of documentation depends on what is meant as practice for each creator
    • documentation is in itself a type of practice
    • documentation can be considered as a house-keeping tool for future output production
  • documentation is not necessarily public since private records are common practice
  • blog seems to be a popular documentation tool which also allows a timeline to be built
  • curation of documentation data can serve requirements for communicating the research to different bodies

Meeting with Chelsea graphics design students


I spoke to the students from the MA Graphics Design and Communication course as I am looking for student volunteers to test any Artivity tools (when they are ready) and collect some data.
I think the obstacle with students is switching away from Adobe. Adobe dominates the graphics design world and students feel that anything else will exclude them from the post-degree market.
Sadhna Jain , the course director, has flagged up the community which could be an important stakeholder.

Project meeting with Semiodesk


Had a good discussion with Sebastian and Moritz from Semiodesk today and we progressed with the plans for the project:

  • Sebastian came up with a new name: Artivity from Art and Activity which is a huge improvement over the elaborate "collecting contextual reseach data... etc."
  • we have confirmed the use of GNOME Activity journal as the software for examining/browsing the any data
  • because of the rapid development of web browsing software (especially Firefox and Chrome) the zeitgeist links to browsing history seems broken
  • we agreed to push the GUI for exporting and packaging data to phase 3
  • we will be choosing one creative application to collect data from for Phase 1 and perhaps another for Phase 2

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. He follows this description by introducing briefly another way of making these bindings in which the boards are attached to the outermost endleaves before the book is covered. He describes the process as follows:

You take a book that is already finished except for the making of a vellum binding. You line a piece vellum with paper and fold the spine into it; then you take pasteboard and on one side you cut it off straight; you brush a little paste on the middle of the flyleaf and lay the cardboard on this [the straight-cut side on the spine of the book, a straw’s breadth from it] and put the whole, when it is dry, in the press; after that you trim the cardboard round the book in such a way that there is a protruding edge on it [the squares: the cardboard is a little larger than the book]; then you put it in the vellum [the spine of which has already been folded] and push the points [slips] through once only [towards the outside] and put the whole back in the press; but first you brush the cardboard [with paste] and lay the vellum on it, and only then do you put the whole in the press.
When it is dry you take the book out of the press and push the points inside; and then you fold the edges of the vellum round the cardboard; but first you tear off the flyleaf to which the cardboard was at first fixed [this turns the rest of the flyleaf into a stub], because now the cardboard is fixed to the vellum; then you poke the ends of the headband core through the folded-in vellum to create the cap. … Once the vellum has been folded round the cardboard you again brush the paste onto the flyleaf that you have just torn off [i.e. the second endpaper; this becomes the pastedown], close the book and place it in the press.

(Dirk de Bray, A Short Instruction in the Binding of Books followed by a note on the gilding of edges by Ambrosius Vermerck, Amsterdam: Atelier de Ganzenweide, 2012, pp. 96-100)

This order of construction, by adhering the boards to the bookblock before the book is covered, appears to turn these books into inboard bindings rather than laced-case bindings, but by tearing the outermost endleaf off the board before turning-in the cover, and then re-attaching it to the book by lacing the slips through its joints, the binding reverts to a laced-case binding, and should still be described as such. The description, at least as translated in the most recent facsimile edition, is confusing when it comes to the handling of the endleaves, as the leaf that has been removed from the board cannot become a pastedown if it has been torn to a stub, so either it is a stub that is pasted to the board under the next endleaf, which then becomes the pastedown, or it remains a full leaf and can then be used as a pastedown. Either way, it remains a laced-case binding.

The binding found on a book in Lambeth Palace Library (Johann Marck, In Præcipuas quasdam Partes Pentateuchi Commentarius, Leiden: Apud Samuelem Luchtmans, 1713, Lambeth Palace Library, A26.1 Ψ) as part of the survey project undertaken this January by four students on the Camberwell conservation course, appears, however, to offer yet another variation which does create an inboard binding, but which from the outside looks just like a parchment-covered laced-case binding with boards (Fig. 1). In this example, the boards were first adhered, before the cover was attached (somewhat as in de Bray), to what is now a stub with a torn edge (but which may originally have been the inner half of a complete leaf) and also to the extensions of transverse parchment spine linings, right up the spine edges of the boards (not as in de Bray, who stated that there should only be “a little paste on the middle of the flyleaf”). This results in the head and tail ends of the stubs lying under the turn-ins, which indicates that the boards were attached permanently to the endleaf stubs before the book was covered. This form of board attachment was reinforced by the fact that the extensions of the transverse spine linings were also adhered to the insides of the boards under the stubs. At head and tail, therefore, the lining extensions and the stubs crossed the joints, and this in turn meant that they had to be lifted to allow the cover to be turned in. When the binder lifted the extensions, he also lifted with them the part of the paper stub that that was pasted over them. Before pasting them back, after the cover was turned in, he cut the lining extensions short at an oblique angle, which left the exposed surface of the boards under the cut away portions clearly visible under the pastedowns, thus revealing the sequence of the binding process (Fig. 2). The sewing-support and endband slips must have been laced out through the cover as it was put onto the book and were then laced back inside the cover after it was attached to the boards. The slips therefore lie over the stubs, but underneath the pastedown. In the absence of any name in the literature, I have named this structure an 'inboard binding with a laced cover'.

A book with almost exactly the same structure, but which was never covered, survives in the Herzog August Bibliothek (Neu-Vollständigers Marggräff. Brandenburgisches Gesang-Buch, Bayreuth: Johann Gebhardt, 1660 (HAB: Yv 1278.8° Helmst)), the only difference being the use of stuck-on endbands of a typically German sort with a secondary sewing rather than the sewn endbands of the typically Dutch sort. The stub (with a torn edge) of the outermost endleaf was pasted to the inside of the board over the transverse lining extensions (Figs. 3a and 3b). Had the book ever been covered, at least part of the head and tail ends of this stub (and the endband lining extensions under them) would have needed to have been lifted in order to allow the cover to be turned-in over the head and tail edges.

Since finding the Lambeth example, I looked again at an odd volume that I have had for many years (De Spectator; of Verrezen Socrates. Zesde en laaste Deel. Uit het Engelsch vertaalt door P. le Clercq. Twede Druk, Amsterdam: By Hermanus Uytwerf, 1730), and discovered exactly the same phenomenon (Fig. 4), showing yet again how careful you need to be when observing bindings – I had never noticed this detail before. The question raised by these bindings, of course, is who used this technique, why, where and how often – and why de Bray offered his second technique as an alternative to what appears to have been the much more common laced-case technique. Or was it, in fact, rather less common than we think? Do we in fact have to go back over books already examined to check on which of the three techniques was actually used to make each one?

Nicholas Pickwoad
5 March, 2015

The photographs are shown by kind permission of Lambeth Palace Library and the Herzog August Bibliothek, with special thanks to Katharina Maehler for taking the photographs of the Bayreuth edition.

Documenting Practice - Creating art using digital tools


On the 16th of February 2015 Ligatus held a CCW workshop at Chelsea College of Arts to discuss documenting practice in art and design. This was in preparation for the "Research Data Spring" JISC sandpit. Participants included:

I started the workshop with a short introduction on the value of documenting process in the interpretation of the final output. The short presentation can be found here:

A summary of some important points made during the discussion follows:

  • Art historical research mostly relies on the output of an artist over a period of time, therefore any system to track contextual research data should be active over a long period of time.
  • Some artists consider self-archiving as a problem and distraction from their work. Collecting contextual research data automatically may solve this problem.

Rough notes from the meeting are attached - thank you Claire for producing these!

More discussions on this to follow.

PDF icon Rough workshop notes36.2 KB


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