bookbinding edinburgh

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For the next month or so, instead of Mondays being Diagram Day, they will be Dissertation Day! As I prepare my dissertation “Issues in the Rebinding of Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts: Facing the Future, Conserving the Past, and Creating Useable Objects for Today” for presentation at the International Conference for Books, Publishing, and Libraries in October, I’ll be posting summaries and expositions of portions of it for your reading pleasure.

Solving the Mystery of MS 19

The downside of long-lived institutions such as the University of Edinburgh Library is that some details and information doesn’t get passed down through successive generations of librarians and keepers. Edinburgh MS 19 is a fairly recent example of this. MS 19 is a French Bible Historial, completed sometime between 1314 and 1315, and apparently rebound sometime in the past 25 years. Luckily, the person or firm doing the rebinding retained the late 18th or 19th century University binding, but unluckily, they left no sign of who they were or why the rebinding was carried out!

Read more after the jump…

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The Optimism of the Victorians

In the decades after World War II, America, and to a certain extent the UK and several other Western European countries, developed a very strong positive attitude towards technological innovations and the future. This optimism can be seen in everything from the “space age” mid-century styles to the popularity of the microwave. This period, full of idealistic inventiveness, seemed like a brand new and exciting thing- however, in the late 19th century, those stuffy Victorians had their own explosion of technological optimism. 

The Victorians weren’t so stuffy when it came to proclaiming their mastery of science and the natural world. This book, Discoveries and Inventions of the Nineteenth Century, written in 1886 by Robert Routledge, is an excellent example of this mindset- though it is far from being the only one. A huge number of books that boasted of the technological achievements of Modern Man were published in the period between about 1870 and 1910, and many of them were rife with illustrations of wondrous inventions.

This particular work is quite general in subject, ranging from the invention of the steam train to the development of a system for visualizing the entire spectrum of light. It is nicely representative of this genre of Victorian technology books with large sections devoted to weaponry and shipping, as well as items like gold, diamonds, and rubber that could be easily obtained from “the colonies”. The technological optimism of the 19th century was just as much a part popular consciousness as it was in the 1950s and 60s- Victorians clamored for miniature books published with new methods of photolithography, for photographs, and for quack medical devices that made use of questionable amounts of electricity. 

This book is a fascinating example of how it’s not always just history that repeats itself- attitudes are cyclical as well.

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For the next month or so, instead of Mondays being Diagram Day, they will be Dissertation Day! As I prepare my dissertation “Issues in the Rebinding of Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts: Facing the Future, Conserving the Past, and Creating Useable Objects for Today” for presentation at the International Conference for Books, Publishing, and Libraries in October, I’ll be posting summaries and expositions of portions of it for your reading pleasure.

So you’ve decided to rebind an illuminated manuscript. That’s a hard decision to make on its own, but throw in actually deciding what the new binding should look like aesthetically and many people begin to feel like they’re out of their depth. However, if the rebinding will be taking a more historically accurate route, medieval illuminators have left modern librarians, conservators, and bookbinders some useful clues to the original outward appearances of manuscripts. How thoughtful!

Read on to learn more about these clues, and how they can be utilized…

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