41. European Decorative Bookbinding
(Evaluation of the RBS 1994 version of this course)
An historical survey of decorative bookbinding in England and on
the European continent, concentrating on the period 1500-1800, but
with examples drawn from the late c7 to the late c20. Topics
include: the emergence and development of various decorative
techniques and styles; readership and collecting; the history of
book-binding in a wider historical context; the pitfalls and
possibilities of binding research. Enrollment in this course is limited
to those who have taken Nicholas Pickwoad's RBS course (see below,
nos. 42 and 53).
I. How useful were the pre-course readings?
1: Extremely. 2: Essential to benefitting fully
the course. 4: As pre-course readings, through no fault of
MF or RBS, useless: much else afoot. As a reading list to follow
up, quite valuable. 5: Helpful. 6: The four highly
recommended were very useful and will be even better for review.
It's too bad E P Goldschmidt is so hard to access. 7:
Very -- and useful following the course for reference! 8:
valuable. I need to reread some as I go over my notes at home.
9: I was already familiar with them. But you do need a
strong background in binding and binding history to appreciate
II. Was your faculty member well-prepared to teach THIS
1: Yes. 2: Superbly well. 3: So beautifully
prepared and organized that I soon learned to wait when a
arose from the material, knowing that it would, in just the right
place, be answered. 4: Thoroughly: well ordered lectures
timed almost to the minute; slides -- many repeating in different
combinations -- of which one out of many hundreds was upside down
flaw in the carpet); and the kind of fierce and good-humored
determination that makes the best RBS courses. 5: I'm so
pressed by her preparation. 6: YES! 7: Yes.
Extremely so. 9: Absolutely.
III. Was the intellectual level of the course content
1: Yes. 2: Yes. The instructor provided an
intellectual organization for a whole, diverse field. 3:
Certainly. 4: Yes. There was much detail -- one dived in
came up for air, as it were -- not so much to be memorized
(impossible), but always revealing the mindset and obsessions
characterize this kind of scholarship. As she noted at the end,
still need to develop the vocabulary and methodology that will
allow for generalization of scholarly findings and linking with
``other history.'' 5-9: Yes.
IV. If your course had field trips, were they effective?
1: Yes. The Folger's staff was extremely generous to allow
us to handle the volumes. 2: I was skeptical about the
of the trip to the Folger, but am reconciled to its value.
3: The books shown in Special Collections were very
after seeing the points made in slides. 4: Very much so:
trips to Alderman Special Collections and the remarkable
of sitting around a table at the Folger seeing some of their most
extraordinary bindings. There were close looks at much that we
seen in slides and could not otherwise see in such combinations.
All with MF's running commentary. I wish my head contained a
recorder. 5: Yes, it was very important to view the books
the Folger Library. 6: Very. 7: Yes. 8: The
visits to the Folger and UVa's Special Collections were certainly
highlights. 9: 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?
1-5: Yes. 6: Yes. Yes. 7: Yes -- beyond
expectation. 8: Yes. Exceeded all expectations. 9:
VI. What did you like best about the course?
1: The field trip and the instructor. 2: The
of intellectual organization and fund of specific examples.
3: The chance to see the mind and methodology of this
brilliant and charming teacher. Her closely-knit arguments were a
great pleasure to follow. The chronological comparison of the
collectors on Friday was especially fine. 4: Looking and
looking at bindings through expert eyes; beginning to get a
on the vocabulary. 5: It was most informative. The
etc. 6: Excellent, clear presentation of material -- well-
planned -- did not get off track in spite of time answering
7: Concept and organization of the material. Especially
relevant for my own teaching. 8: MF, of course. Also good
have a cross-section of fellow students from many backgrounds.
9: The subject, the instructor, and the field trip.
VII. How could the course have been improved?
1: A bit more time so it wouldn't be such a sprint.
2: Ideally, Islamic and Hispanic bindings would have been
covered. 3: Occasionally I would have been helped by an
enlarged detail, as in the signature of Roger Payne. Especially
first two days I was straining to see little stamps temptingly
described as dragons or flowers that I could scarcely see even as
stamps. 4: More time -- the usual impossible request.
Some slides were hard to see, but it is probably unrealistic to
think better ones would be readily available. 7: Some
would like a list of books cited in the slides. I think this is a
bit much, as we can look many of them up later in the books on
reading list. 9: It was a bit intense -- a lot to get in
time allowed. Maybe a more focused course on the subject would be
VIII. Any final thoughts?
1: I love this place. 2: I suggest that the Expanded
Course Descriptions include the names of the instructors. (One as
much ``takes'' the instructor as the course.) Including also the
dates of the courses in the Expanded Course Descriptions would
completely preclude the annoyance, with the Expanded Course
Descriptions in hand, of having to refer back to the earlier
flyer that announced the year's courses. 3: You would be very
fortunate to take it. 5: It was a privilege to be included
in this course and to be a part of RBS this summer. 6:
Some familiarity with the material is definitely desirable. 7:
It was a pleasure to be in a course with participants at more or
less the same level of expertise, each having fair knowledge and back-
ground for the course. 8: Read well your reading list!
Also review notes from Nicholas Pickwoad's class. 9: It was a
wonderful experience for anyone interested in the history of
bookbinding. TAKE THIS COURSE!
Number of respondents: 9
Leave Tuition Housing Travel
Institution Institution Institution Institution
gave me leave paid tuition paid housing paid travel
56% 44% 22% 22%
I took vaca- I paid tui- I paid for my I paid my own
tion time tion myself own housing travel
0% 34% 56% 67%
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
44% 22% 22% 11%
Five students (54%) were conservators/binders/conservation
librarians, and one student (11% each) had a non-professionally-related
interest in the subject, was a rare book librarian, was retired,
or did not specify.