52. Introduction to Medieval and Early Renaissance Bookbinding Structures

Christopher Clarkson
(Evaluation of the RBS 1994 version of this course)

An explanation of the diversities of European bookbinding structures, up to and including the early period of more generalized practice and divisions of labor. Topics include: identification (where possible) of the main types of binding structures; their dating and provenance; the recognition and recording of materials and techniques.

I. How useful were the pre-course readings?

1: Great, but probably too many unless I read full-time for a couple of months. 2: Very useful. 3: I found the reading interesting and useful, especially Miner and Gimpel, and of course, CC's articles. 5: Very. 6: Very useful. 7: Too many items on the Middle Ages themselves. I would have preferred more on actual bindings or libraries -- less on armor and horseshoes. 8: Pre-course readings were useful, but could have been more extensive if photocopies of copyrighted journals and Festschriften could legally be provided. 10: They were very interesting, but very general background. 11: Quite. 12: Very useful.

II. Did your instructor prepare properly and sufficiently to teach THIS course?

1: Of course. 2-3: Yes. 4: Instructor was very well prepared; he actually made four days of slides interesting. The information was well-presented and he was generous with information. 5: He had a hard time because he knows far too much and is also extremely honest. This means the course is doubly worth taking, because CC never fudges the hard questions. 6: Yes. 7: Yes, years of experience give him insights which are fascinating. 8: Yes. 9: He knows a lot. I prefer when, as he did, he adapted his information to suit the group. 10-12: Yes.

III. Was the intellectual level of the course content appropriate?

1-5: Yes. 6: Yes! 7: Yes. He took individual experiences into consideration to make certain those from every profession understood the subject at hand. 8-12: Yes.

IV. If your course had field trips, were they effective?

1: Yes, very much. Seeing the real thing put it all together. 2: Yes. 3: Very well spent. The bindings to be seen at the Walters are very special, and slides alone made it hard to appreciate the details of craftsmanship. 4: The time spent going to the Walters Art Gallery very well spent; I think it is essential to see the bindings. 5: I wasn't sure it would be in the beginning, but it turned out to be well worth the trip. 6: Absolutely yes! 7: Yes, it was good to look at the examples with an eye which was taught what to look for. It's important to do these things while the learning is fresh in order to retain the information. 8: The field trip was necessary, but the distance to Baltimore was unfortunate (6+ hours in transit). I recognize this as inevitable if courses concerning medieval manuscripts (ie, paleography, codicology, bindings) are to be included in RBS without appropriate collections at UVa. But I can imagine these courses being taught at another location -- particularly NYC and vicinity. 9: Can't answer. 10: Yes. I was not happy with six hours' travelling time, but I think it was worth it. 11-12: Yes.

V. Did the actual course content correspond to its RBS brochure description and Expanded Course Description? Did the course in general meet your expectations?

1: Perhaps change the title from ``Medieval and Renaissance'' to ``Ancient and Medieval.'' 2-3: Yes. 4: It did correspond, except I don't see how one without bookbinding experience would find it useful. 5: Yes, exactly. 6: 100%! 7-9: Yes. 10: Yes. Yes. 11-12: Yes.

VI. What did you like best about the course?

1: CC is the recognized world expert in this subject. This is the only chance to hear him on a regular basis for an extended period in the States. Keep bringing him back! 2: Getting to know the medieval period a little. 3: The field trip, slides, and bookbinding skills of the instructor. 4: In addition to the slides, I appreciated the handouts of drawings and articles, and the samples passed around. 5: Consideration of medieval book mechanics. Before the course, I knew it was quite different but not exactly why. 6: The information. The level of expertise. The amount of extra material (such as samples). The instructor's vast reputation in this field. 7: Descriptions of binding techniques and how to identify them and dating the materials and styles. 8: The emphasis on technical aspects of medieval and Renaissance binding structures as seen by an instructor who is a binder as well as a binding historian. 9: Visuals and descriptions and anecdotes. 10: The instructor's immense depth of knowledge of the subject and the endless number of excellent slides. 11: Slides. 12: The instructor's stories and experience with the bindings.

VII. How could the course have been improved?

1: Somehow the photocopying he requested was hung up with copyright issues -- we couldn't get things he was the author of! 2: Provide a time line (not an elaborate chart or graph). 3: A time line indicating periods of certain practices and materials/use would be helpful to keep it all clear, even if beginning dates are speculative. 4: Extend it for another week -- and perhaps a field trip to England. 5: Going on another 10 weeks or so! 7: More time in Baltimore or Princeton with the actual books. Can the course be held at Princeton? 8: See nos. 1 and 4, above. 9: There was a lot of time spent copying visual information by hand because we could not have photo-copies. A loss of time when you have the master around. 10: They'd just be quibbles, so I won't bother. 11: Practical sewing session (it might be made clearer whether the course is for conservators or for librarians).

VIII. Any final thoughts?

1: All book conservators should be required to take this course (at least once). 3: The general readings on history of technology are especially good background. 5: Do it. 6: I would think that it would be a good idea if CC and Nicholas Pickwoad's courses were not in the same week as it is now, but CC a week before NP so that I could have stayed for two weeks instead of planning to come back another year for this specific topic. It is not easy (economically speaking) to plan for such a long period. 10: Take it! 11: Go. Keep this particular course going!

Number of respondents: 12


Leave                 Tuition               Housing                Travel

Institution           Institution           Institution            Institution
gave me leave         paid tuition          paid housing           paid travel

83%                   58%                   58%                    58%

I took vaca-          I paid tui-           I paid for my          I paid my own
tion time             tion myself           own housing            travel

0%                    17%                   42%                    42%

N/A: self-            N/A: Self-            N/A: stayed            N/A: lived 
employed, re-         employed,             with friends           nearby
tired, or had         retired, or           or lived at
summers off           exchange              home

17%                   25%                   0%                     0%

Nine students (75%) were conservator/binder/preservation librarians, two students (17%) were rare book librarians, and one (8%) was an archivist.