ABAA-RBS Seminar Series

Date: 11 November 2015
Time: 8 a.m.–6 p.m.
Location: North Bennet Street School, Boston MA
Presented by: The Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (ABAA) and Rare Book School

Rare Book School and the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) are co-sponsoring a one-day seminar series at the North Bennet Street School in Boston, MA (map) on Wednesday, 11 November 2015 (just prior to the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair). These seminars have been designed to be of interest to book collectors and booksellers, but signup is open to anyone with an interest in the topics covered. The cost to attend the seminar series is $300.

As space is limited, signup for the seminar series will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis. As part of the signup process, you will be asked to rank your choices for each concurrent session, and these will be assigned until each seminar has reached capacity. We encourage “early bird” signup before 18 September, to improve your chances of getting a seat in your top-choice seminars. Participants will also receive a pass to the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair.

Seminar Series Schedule

A final banquet following the seminar series will be scheduled if participants express interest. Likewise, optional events (visits to Boston-area libraries, bookstores, &c.) may be organized for Thursday, 12 November if there is interest.

Signup Process

  • Fill out the Seminar Signup Form (www.rarebookschool.org/seminarsignup2015). You will be asked to rank your seminar preferences for each session: these will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis until each seminar has reached capacity. Early bird registration (before 18 September) is strongly recommended. If you have any trouble with the signup form, please email seminars@virginia.edu or call Jeremy Dibbell at 434-243-7077. [Update: The seminar series has currently reached enrollment capacity. You may still sign up for the waitlist, if you wish, and we will contact you if seats open.]
  • Once seminar session assignments have been made, you will receive an email confirming your seminar sessions and containing a link through which to submit payment. Your payment will serve to reserve your seat in the seminar series.
  • Final details will be sent via email prior to the event.

Seminar Descriptions

“Introduction to Bookbinding Structures, 1500–1750″ (Session I). Todd Pattison. When a book’s covering material is in good condition, it can be difficult to identify the construction techniques used to put the binding together. Using PowerPoint slides, binding models, and period bindings, we will examine the most common bookbinding structures used in Western Europe between 1500 and 1750. The focus of this session will be structure and the visible elements that help illuminate how bindings were produced. We will discuss hand-tooling and other decoration as time allows.

“European Printed Books and Manuscripts to 1600: Research and Description” (Session I). Nina Musinsky. How does one become acquainted with a rare antiquarian book? Where does one start? How do you “get a handle” on an early book? Using a variety of specific examples, this session will provide insights into both online and printed research sources and cataloguing approaches to European books of the early hand-press period. We will briefly survey reference sources for every aspect of the physical book: typography, illustrations, bindings, and paper, and will touch on the major bibliographical literature for different subject areas. While the main focus will be on the printed codex, attention will also be paid to manuscripts and broadsides. Participants are invited to bring in examples from their own collections or inventory, especially those that may have posed conundrums or on which they have “hit a wall.”

“‘I Cannot Live Without Books': An Introduction to Provenance” (Sessions I and IV). David Whitesell. Books are physical objects which, over time, accumulate evidence for how they have been used and by whom. This session will explore two interrelated aspects of provenance: the physical transformation books undergo in their owners’ hands, and the evidence of a book’s ownership and use. Topics include: the physical changes to which books are subject and what these reveal about a book’s life history; a survey of individual, institutional, and book trade ownership markings; methods for researching and recording provenance, and some key reference sources; and provenance as a strategy for collecting and bookselling.

“Introduction to Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Case Bookbinding Structures” (Session II). Todd Pattison. Case binding, where a cover and a text block are constructed separately and then adhered together as a final finishing step, became the most common bookbinding structure by the mid-nineteenth century. Using PowerPoint slides, binding models, period bindings, and a demonstration, we will examine the development of the case binding, beginning with laced-in structures used in the eighteenth century. The session will also examine the various decoration techniques and mechanization that case construction allowed.

“European Printed Books and Manuscripts, 1601–1830: Research and Description” (Session II). Nina Musinsky. This seminar will use the same example-driven approach as in the session for European Printed Books and Manuscripts to 1600, but for the later hand-press period. Using PowerPoint slides, catalogue descriptions, and some original examples, we will examine individual books, manuscripts, and ephemera with varying physical attributes and from different countries, periods, and subject areas. These case studies will show how close attention to the form and content of the book or manuscript itself, combined with careful bibliographical research, can illuminate the meaning, social function, and idiosyncratic features of each document.Participants are invited to bring in their own examples of “problem” books (or manuscripts, &c.).

“Book Illustration Processes: Letterpress” (Session II). Terry Belanger. An introduction to letterpress book illustration, 1493–1900, using original examples of both prints and printing surfaces. Topics include: woodcut (golden age and decline), wood engraving, and photographic process line and halftone blocks.

“Introduction to the Hand-Press Period Book” (Session III). David Whitesell. Intended for those wishing to delve beneath the title-page and text, this session will offer a brief introduction to the physical aspects of hand-press period books (i.e., printed before c.1830). Topics include: paper, typography, printing (relief and intaglio), illustration, structure (format and collation), characteristic features, and binding materials. Participants will gain a better appreciation for the book as an object, and how a book’s physical aspects relate to collecting and bookselling; become more comfortable reading catalog descriptions and bibliographies; and receive directed guidance in where to find more information on the topics covered.

“Defining a Bookselling Specialty for Contemporary Trends” (Session III). Don Lindgren. How does one navigate antiquarian materials in ways relevant to contemporary private collectors and the current needs of special collections? We will look at building a specialty, using cookbooks and gastronomy as an example. Particular attention will be paid to using current trends when cataloging and list-making, discovering groups of dedicated enthusiasts outside of the traditional book collecting and library worlds, and taking advantage of the new tools of the digital humanities to gauge the interests and needs of scholars and librarians. We will discuss how adapting a bookselling business to address changes in the popular and academic cultures can lead to a broader customer base and better relationships with collectors and institutions.

“Book Illustration Processes: Intaglio” (Session III). Terry Belanger. An introduction to engraved and etched book illustrations on copper and steel, 1600–1880, using original examples of both prints and printing surfaces. Topics include line engraving, tonal processes (mezzotint, aquatint, and stipple), steel engraving, and steel-faced copper engraving.

“Preservation and Conservation for Book Collectors” (Session IV). Todd Pattison. Private collectors often have limited resources when it comes to caring for their rare book collections, and have different goals from institutions when contemplating conservation treatment. In this session, we will focus on preservation strategies for book collectors and will discuss the issues involved with maintaining book collections, including causes of deterioration, safe handling and storage practices, and protective enclosures, with an emphasis on the preservation of private collections. Several conservation treatments for bound materials will be covered with an eye toward less invasive techniques appropriate for private collections.

“‘I Cannot Live Without Books': An Introduction to Provenance” (Sessions I and IV). David Whitesell. Books are physical objects which, over time, accumulate evidence for how they have been used and by whom. This session will explore two interrelated aspects of provenance: the physical transformation books undergo in their owners’ hands, and the evidence of a book’s ownership and use. Topics include: the physical changes to which books are subject and what these reveal about a book’s life history; a survey of individual, institutional, and book trade ownership markings; methods for researching and recording provenance, and some key reference sources; and provenance as a strategy for collecting and bookselling.

“Book Illustration Processes: Lithography” (Session IV). Terry Belanger. An introduction to lithographed book illustrations, 1810–1900, using original examples of both prints and printing surfaces. Topics include chalk-manner litho, transfer litho, and tinted and color litho.

Seminar Instructors

Terry Belanger retired in September 2009 as founding Director of Rare Book School and University Professor and Honorary Curator of Special Collections at the University of Virginia. He is a 2005 MacArthur fellow.

Don Lindgren is an antiquarian bookseller specializing in books on food and drink. His business, Rabelais: Fine Books on Food & Drink, sells rare books, manuscripts, ephemera, and other materials related to culinary history and culture, and has been called “the best cookbook shop in America” by Bon Appétit Magazine. Don also performs appraisal and institutional placement services for collections and archives related to food and drink. Don is a Governor of the ABAA, and a member of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB), the Ephemera Society of America, and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

Nina Musinsky is the proprietor of Musinsky Rare Books, Inc., founded in 2003, specializing in Western European fifteenth- to early nineteenth-century printed books and manuscripts in the humanities. Nina is a member of the Council of the Bibliographical Society of America, past chair of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the ABAA, and served for five years on the faculty of the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS).

Todd Pattison is the Senior Book Conservator at the Northeast Document Conservation Center, where he performs conservation treatments on a wide range of bound volumes. Before returning to NEDCC he was the Collections Conservator at Harvard College Library. Pattison currently serves on the board of the Ticknor Society and is Chair of the New England chapter of the Guild of Book Workers.

David Whitesell is Curator in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia, before which he was Curator of Books at the American Antiquarian Society, a rare book cataloger at the Houghton Library, Harvard University, and in the antiquarian book trade.