Ligatus news

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

IDCC - JISC special session on research data


I joined several researchers today at a special session of the 10th International Digital Curation Conference about the JISC data spring call. Many interesting ideas and presentations including a proposed project by Ximena Alarcon on sound and audio spaces.
My presentation was about recording contextual research data which are typically unavailable as part of the final research output. I have been looking at the semantic desktop ontologies (nepomuk) which offer a reasonable framework for tracking researcher's activity on the desktop. Given that much of the research is currently undertaken in front of a computer, it makes sense to employ such tools to capture contextual data.
I managed to speak to a lot of people about this project including:

  • Christopher Gutteridge with whom I discussed a number of metrics that could be considered for recording activity on the desktop, some of them being used in lifelogging (Christopher works with a lifelogging expert Ash Smith in Southampton)
    • app switches
    • computer state (screen size)
    • screen captures
    • computer movement
    • proximity with other people (bluetooth)
    • location data
  • Simon Coles who talked about a recipe book for research methods in science with similar issues to collecting contextual research data in science.

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.

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:

"Some Earlier British Owners; of Books in the Arcadian Library and their Marks of Ownership and Use" and "Princes, Ministers and Scholars: Some non-English Provenances in the Arcadian Library" by Alistair Hamilton and Giles Mandelbrote

"Three Bindings à la fanfare and the Origins of the Fanfare Style" by Anthony Hobson ;

"Selected European Decorated Bookbindings in the Arcadian Library" by Philippa Marks

"The Ottoman World of Abdallah Zakher: The Bindings of the Melkite Monastery at Shuwayr in the Arcadian Library" by John-Paul Ghobrial

"The Structures and Materials of Commercial Bookbindings in the Arcadian Library" by Nicholas Pickwoad

"Some Decorative Endpapers in the Arcadian Library" by Willem de Bruijn.

To quote from the OUP blurb: "The Arcadian Library, based in London, is one of the finest collections of books reflecting European interest in the Arab and Islamic worlds. Among its c.10,000 volumes are many copies with important provenances and fine bindings. In this companion volume to no. 8 in the series [Studies in the Arcadian library], six distinguished authorities on the history of book-collecting and the ownership and use of books, and the history of bookbinding, deal with significant aspects of the Library's holdings from these varied perspectives. ... The scholarly essays in this volume are complemented by a very large number of specially commissioned photographs, making available a wealth of comparative evidence and new examples of particular bindings, details of decoration, inscriptions and marks of ownership".

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. Fyner, not after 1473 (Wellcome Institute Library, 4.f.2) from the Augustinian Monastery of St Pancratius in Ranshofen, and then in the collection of William Morris. It is in a contemporary inboard binding sewn on three double alum-tawed supports with beech-wood boards and covered in blind-tooled dark brown tanned calf. The centre-fold of each gathering has a parchment sewing guard and underneath the sewing guards at the head and tail (and therefore not part of the sewing structure) of almost all the gatherings are lengths of thin thread, about 45-53 mm long, which formed separate loops over the head and tail edges of the gatherings and which the binder left in place when sewing the book. As the printed leaves are neither paginated nor foliated and the signatures are not signed, the quire tackets would have had the advantage of holding the bifolia within each gathering together in the right order, while manuscript catchwords on the final versos of each gathering would have allowed the binder to sew them in the right order. It may be that the quires were tacketed in the printer’s workshop.

I have since seen two other examples (one shown to me by Andrew Honey of the Bodleian Library) and I would be very interested to know if any others have been identified.

Nicholas Pickwoad
18 July 2014

The photograph is reproduced by kind permission of the Wellcome Institute Library

Anthony Hobson

It is with great sadness that we record the death on Saturday morning, 13 July, of Anthony Hobson, at the age of 92. The leading bookbinding historian of his, and indeed successive generations, his work, especially on Italian bindings of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, was outstanding and will remain a monument to a long and very active life. He was completing work on a new book when he died.

The Independent obituary
The Art Newspaper announcement

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? The book inside is: Historia dess leidens und stärbens, Konstanz: [Balthasar Romätsch],1545 (Stiftsbiblothek St Gallen, EE r V 26.1). The library has kindly given us permission to reproduce these images.

Ligatus runs workshop on the value of free software to education

Ligatus has recently organised a workshop on the value of free/libre software in education within the context of UAL. The official event booking page is here:

The workshop was attended by 12 open source enthusiasts. Following an interesting discussion on the issues surrounding propriatory software in education and the possibilities offered by open source software, the contributors had a chance to try GNU/Linux on their own laptops. An agreement to extend the group's activities was taken and we hope that a second workshop will soon follow.

Times Higher Education reports on Prof. Pickwoad and Ligatus

Please see a recent article on the Times Higher Education website with a reference to Ligatus and Prof. Pickwoad's talk:

And Nicholas Pickwoad, director of the Ligatus Research Centre (University of the Arts, London) drew on the history of bookbinding to set out “a really good reason to preserve real books”, since the “material object has locked up within it… a significant part of the history of the book, much of which is not accessible by other means”.


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