1st Edition

The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding

ISBN 9780859679046
Published August 28, 1999 by Routledge
368 Pages

USD $210.00

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Book Description

In the past, studies of the history of bookbinding were mainly concerned with the exterior decoration. This book focuses attention primarily on the physical aspects of the binding and its construction principles. It is an expanded version of a series of lectures delivered by the author while Visiting Professor at the University of Amsterdam in 1987, supplemented with the results of ten years of intensive research in major libraries on the Continent, the United Kingdom and the USA. It surveys the evolution of binding structures from the introduction of the codex two thousand years ago to the close of the Middle Ages. Part I reviews the scanty physical evidence from the Mediterranean heritage, the early Coptic, Islamic and Ethiopian binding structures and their interrelation with those of the Byzantine realm. Part II is devoted to a detailed analysis of Western binding techniques, distinguishing the carolingian, romanesque and gothic wooden-board bindings as the main typological entities; their structure and function is compared with those of contemporary limp bindings. The book is illustrated with over 200 drawings and photographs and contains a comprehensive bibliography.

Table of Contents

Contents: Part One: The Mediterranean Heritage: The first single-quire Coptic codices; The first multi-quire Coptic codices; Late Coptic codices; The Ethiopian codex; The Islamic codex; Byzantine codices; Part Two: The Medieval Codex in the Western World: Carolingian bindings; Romanesque bindings; Gothic bindings; Limp bindings; Bibliography; Index.

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Professor J.A.Szirmai spent twenty years in medical research before becoming a professional designer bookbinder and later a scholar in the history of binding techniques.


'Dr Szirmai has filled gap of long standing in the history of the book. No comprehensive study of medieval bookbinding structure exists and certainly not one that is so detailed and wide ranging... An excellent and extensive bibliography and a detailed index contribute to making this a first-rate work of reference... above all, this is the sort of book that is only produced once in a generation, if that often. All book historians owe Dr Szirmai an enormous debt of gratitude for having written it.’ The Library ’While comparisons are not possible with a book which stands alone in its scope and scrupulous presentation of its material, it can be said that more than anything published so far in this field, it stands as a statement of what is currently known of the subject... a mine of information, much of which is either available nowhere else or in journals or languages not accessible to any but the most dedicated researchers. It deserves to be on the shelves of any individual or institution that concerns itself with the medieval book.’ Nicholas Pickwood, TLS '... a book literally without peer... It is this passionate interest that has enabled (Szirmai) to assemble this remarkable history...' Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America ’Le ’Szirmai’ sera incontournable pour tout étudiant manuscrit.’ Veronika von Büren, Aevum '... a work of great scholarship.' Bookbinder ’... [a] major contribution to the study of bookbinding... Szirmai’s book [...] is the first to offer a comprehensive account of binding structures; from sewing, through edge trimming, to fastenings and furnishings... The detail, like the coverage, is astonishing... an absolute must for any library concerned with the art, history, and science of the book.’ ARLIS ’Every book restorer should be familiar with the knowledge in The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding... It should be available to every book restorer as an indispensable handbook... The book is a standar