The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 14, Number 1
Feb 1990

Cataloging Medieval Binding Structures in British Libraries

In September, 1989, a small group of invited scholars, librarians and conservators met in Cambridge, England, to discuss how to set up a project for cataloging medieval bookbinding structures preserved in British libraries, how to finance it and what form it should take. They agreed it should record all surviving structures, whole or fragmentary; that, perhaps at a secondary stage, it should examine surviving evidence of vanished binding structures; and that it should comprise material from the earliest times to about 1500, perhaps including some incunables.

As a direct result of the meeting, a pilot project has begun in the Parker Library, which cosponsored the September meeting with Lucy Cavendish College. It will record the small group of manuscripts with early bindings in that collection. This pilot project will aim to devise a standard formula and set of terms for describing medieval structures, suitable for storage on a database.

Possible projects for the future include an occasional bulletin devoted to research on bookbinding structures; international conferences; and the publication of more general volumes that would deal with such topics as tools, materials and techniques, the interpretation of evidence to be found in contemporary illustrations and documents, and discussion of the relationship between the text and its present condition and the binding which contains it, or the vanished binding(s) which once contained it. [Condensed from a report by Jennifer M. Sheppard in the Autumn 1989 Gazette du Livre Médiéval

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