Ligatus news

Professor Nicholas Pickwoad presents a new discovery at Amsterdam University Library

image of manuscript
On Thursday, 11 April 2013, Professor Pickwoad took part in the presentation at the Bijzondere Collecties of Amsterdam University Library of the discovery of two leaves from a lectionary written in about 860 in the royal scriptorium of Charles the Bald, King of the West Franks.

Professor Pickwoad found the leaves last summer on the binding of a copy of Jean Calvin, 'In viginti prima Ezechielis Prophetæ capita Prælectiones', Geneva: ex officina Francisci Perrini, 1565, whilst searching for books to use in teaching his course 'European Bookbinding 1450-1830' for the Bijzondere Collecties Summer School. By great good fortune, Professor Rosamond McKitterick was teaching on the summer school in the same week, and she was able almost immediately to identify the date and origin of the leaves. Twelve manuscripts are known from this scriptorium, and these leaves are evidence of a hitherto unrecorded thirteenth manuscript, probably written for the royal chapel itself. Most unusually, the leaves were treated with great respect by the binder, who arranged them to show the decorated frames and gold lettering on bands of purple complete and symmetrically on the binding.

A full account of the manuscript leaves by Professor McKitterick and of the binding by Professor Pickwoad will be published in the next issue of 'Quaerendo', due out this summer.

Presentation of the new Ligatus Decorated Paper Project to the Arbeitskreises Buntpapier meeting in Leipzig

Decorated papers on display at the Leipzig meeting, in the Deutschen Nationalbibliothek

Ligatus is conducting a new project, which aims to create an online tool for describing decorated papers. This tool is designed for non-specialists who wish to identify decorated papers found in/on books without having to rely either on written descriptions of such papers or having to attempt to describe them themselves. On February 22nd and 23rd, Aurelie Martin presented this project to the Decorated Paper Historians Group, during their annual meeting in Leipzig.

This group, which has been meeting for the past ten years, convenes book and paper conservators, paper historians, librarians and decorated paper makers. Its focus is the study of decorated paper through various aspects such as the identification of techniques or the problem of terminology. The presentation in Leipzig resulted in a potential collaboration between Ligatus and some of the specialists of the group. We will continue to work on the website in the coming months and hope to go public with a preliminary version later this year.

For more information, please contact or go to:

Professor Nicholas Pickwoad to present keynote lecture at the Baskerville conference

Professor Nicholas Pickwoad will be at the conference, John Baskerville: art, industry and technology in the Enlightenmentin Birmingham from 6-7th April. Contributing to the section, 'Baskerville and his products', Professor Pickwoad's lecture is titled: 'Books bound after what manner you please: English bookbinding in the mid-eighteenth century'.

For more information please go to:

Exhibition of Mudéjar bindings at The Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid

The exhibition entitled 'Piel sobre tabla', or in English, 'Leather on Wood' opens today at the The Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid. Focusing on Iberian Peninsula in the Middle Ages, where between 711 and 1609, Jews, Muslims and Christians shared a common space. This exhibition demonstrates how this co-habitation led to the development of a binding style called Mudéjar, unique to this area of Spain, through the extensive range of examples in the library's collection.

The exhibition runs from 12 March - 19 May, 2013.

Link to the The Biblioteca Nacional de España here:

Link to the English translation of the exhibition details here:

Meet the Ligatus team at the CCW Graduate School Research Degree Open Evening

Join Ligatus and the rest of CCW Graduate School to find out more about Research Degrees at Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon Colleges of Art & Design. The evening will be an opportunity to meet us, other staff and students involved with the research degree programme. You will hear a number of short presentations throughout the evening with an opportunity for you to network and ask questions. Information about funding opportunities will also be available.

Find out more about research degrees:

Monday 4th March 2013

Green Room, Chelsea College of Art & Design,
16 John Islip Street, London SW1P 4JU

Professor Nicholas Pickwoad, Director of the Ligatus Research Centre, presents his first lecture of 2013

Unfinished Business: Incomplete bindings made for the book trade from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century

While it was long assumed that most books in the handpress era were sold in unbound sheets, this has been challenged by the suggestion that many, if not most, books were sold bound. However, the survival of significant numbers of books as sewn bookblocks without covers, and with or without boards, offers another possibility: that the booktrade offered books for sale in an incomplete state, ready to be completed whenever that may have been required. This lecture looks at the surviving examples, the evidence for the practice, and its implications for the history of bookbinding.

Thursday 21 February, 2013
Lecture Theatre, Chelsea College of Art & Design (Atterbury Street Entrance) London, SW1P 4JW
Booking is advised Please contact to make a reservation

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.
Our first contribution is an essay by Valeria Tsygankova, completed as part of her MA in the History of the Book at the University of London, which explores the Russian language sources for the origins of Russia calf – material closed to those of us who cannot read Russian. She hopes to pursue this work further when she has the opportunity to do so, but in the meantime would like to share what she has found with the rest of us.

PDF icon Russia calf by Valeria Tsygankova749.18 KB

Break-up of Mendham collection

From the website. Sign the petition here.

Canterbury Cathedral and the University of Kent have joined forces in a bid to prevent a unique historic collection of several thousand manuscripts, early books, and pamphlets being broken up.

The Mendham Collection, which is owned by the Law Society of England and Wales, contains about 5,000 invaluable items including medieval manuscripts, rare books and unique copies of some of the earliest books to have ever been printed. It has been held under the custodianship of the University and Cathedral for nearly thirty years.

Despite an agreement that Cathedral and the University will retain the custodianship of the Collection until the 31 December 2013, the Law Society has given notice of its instruction to Sotheby's to remove the most valuable items on 18 July 2012 as part of a fundraising drive.

The collection was formed in the nineteenth century by Joseph Mendham, an Anglican clergyman with a keen interest in the history of theology. Since 1984 this collection has been accessible through the Cathedral to students and researchers from around the world. A full scholarly catalogue was published with public funds from the British Library in 1994; a condition of the funding was that the collection should not be dispersed.

The collection was donated by the Mendham family to the Law Society at the end of the nineteenth century on the understanding that it would be kept intact, and both the Cathedral and the University are deeply saddened by the Society's disregard for the family's wishes as well as its determination to break up a collection of such national significance.

Dr Alixe Bovey, Director of the University's Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, said: 'The collection is a valuable witness to the development of Protestantism and Catholicism, and the tensions between them, from the time of the Reformation up to Mendham's lifetime.

‘The imminent removal of the most valuable items will cause irreparable damage to the coherence and richness of this historic collection. While we appreciate the need for the Law Society to raise funds, we ask that the Society works with us to find a way to preserve this invaluable collection.'

The University has a world-wide reputation for its work in medieval and early modern research and offers a number of postgraduate programmes including an international doctoral programme in early modern studies which is funded by the European Union under the Erasmus Mundus scheme.

UAL awards Chris Clarkson an Honourary Doctorate

It is with great pleasure that we can record that Christopher Clarkson was awarded an Honorary Doctorate on 16 July by the University of the Arts London, in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to the conservation of parchment and paper manuscripts, early printed books and book-bindings. It was an occasion on which to remember his first contact with the then independent Camberwell College of Arts and Crafts as a 13-year-old schoolboy and to mark his continuing dedication to the education of young conservators not only in the United Kingdom but across the world. In doing so he has kept alive and carried on the work of Sidney (“Sandy”) Cockerell and Roger Powell, taking his skills to the Library of Congress, the Walters Art Gallery and the Bodleian Library, amongst other institutions. He was heavily involved in such events such as the rescue of the flooded libraries in Florence in 1966 and the repair of such famous material as the Codex Sinaiticus and the Hereford Mappa Mundi. The continuation of traditional skills did not prevent innovative developments, such as perspex exhibition cradles for books and the stepped wedge foam-block book supports for general reading room use. He has always striven to instil the highest standards not only of craftmanship but also of historical awareness, and this he emphasised in his brief address after receiving the award. In 2004 he was awarded the Plowden Gold Medal of the Royal Warrant Holders Association in recognition of his significant contribution to the advancement of the conservation profession. An extract from the citation reads, “… Chris's contribution to training and educating young conservators around the world has lead to the invaluable dissemination of his approach to conservation and the paradigm of minimal intervention. As an archaeologist of the book, his teachings have fostered a deep historical awareness of the object, requiring profound knowledge of a wide variety of materials and a broad repertoire of techniques…”.

The award made yesterday was the first time that the university had offered such a distinction to a book conservator, and it is a fitting tribute to a remarkable man and a remarkable – and continuing – lifetime of work.

For more details of his career, see:


Subscribe to Ligatus news