Jan Storm van Leeuwen

B-10: Introduction to the History of Bookbinding
5-9 June 2006


1)   How useful were the pre-course readings? 

1: Pre-course reading was very helpful. 2: Pretty useful, if not a bit redundant in a few places. 3: The pre-course readings were very helpful as a preparation for the class. In particular, Paul Needham’s book and E.P. Goldschmidt’s book. They gave some background on the course, even though in the beginning it was hard to keep it all straight. But then in class everything came together. 4: Quite useful, especially the David Pearson title. However I could only find about one half of them. I would not have minded having optional non-English language materials listed -- especially French and German. 5: Very helpful. 6: The pre-course readings were extremely useful. We jumped right into binding identification and the reading helped prepare for that and the course content. 7: Useful. I’m especially glad I read Nicholas Pickwoad’s “Onward and Downward” and Mirjum Foot’s views on bookbinding significance, since we did not have much time to discuss these issues in class. 8: Very useful preparation so as to enable me to understand and keep up with the intensive course schedule. 9: Somewhat useful, but would have helped to be told what are 2,3, or 4 most important readings to prepare. 10-11: Very useful.


2)   Were the course syllabus and other materials distributed in class useful (or will they be so in the future, after you return home)?

1: Very much so. 2: Yes -- they will be helpful in the future. 3: The course syllabus is excellent and closely follows the class itself which made it easy to read up on sections taught. It is very useful to have it for future study. 4: Yes. 5: They were helpful during the class and still will be used in the future. 6: Yes, the syllabus and materials were all appropriate and helpful. 7: I hope to use the workbook when I return home. The chronology will be useful, as will the bibliography, which I can use to purchase relevant reference texts for my library. 8: Very useful and will be most useful in the future. 9: Yes! 10: The syllabus is useful and will continue to be so when I return home. 11: Extremely useful. JSvL provided a very concise history and time line. Very useful. Easy to refer to. Bibliography awesome. 12: Very useful.


3)   What aspects of the course content were of the greatest interest or relevance for your purposes? Was the intellectual level of the course appropriate?

1: For me personally the most relevant part was description of bindings as physical objects. Course was very informative in general -- intellectual level was appropriate. 2: It was all interesting for me, especially since I deal with books and I want a larger role with books in the future. 3: The history of decorated bookbindings in relation to periods in art history from the middle ages to the 20th century was the most relevant part of the class for me. I learned a great deal about which decorative styles existed when and I have an idea of how to research bindings and to place them in their historical context. I appreciate the fact that JSvL had many slides and that in the end he also showed the class originals from UVa Special Collections. The intellectual level was adequate. The material covered was voluminous and it requires of course further study. But I feel I can now go on studying with a solid base. 4: I was most interested to learn about terminology and also the names of various styles. The slides were very useful in giving us multiple examples of particular styles so that we could recognize them later and look them up in reference sources. 5: Every aspect has its importance. The identification of styles and periods was very helpful. 6: The intellectual level of the course was a bit higher than my level of knowledge of the material which was just the right degree of challenge. Learning to describe the bindings was exciting and directly relevant to my work. 7: My library does not have a fine binding collection, but I hope the course will allow me to see how the simpler bindings that we have reflect styles in vogue at the time, and may help me to spot bindings that are not contemporary with their texts. 8: The development of decorative bindings from the 16th to the end of the 18th century was of particular interest to me, but nevertheless developments before and after were very interesting and help put my area of particular interest into a wider context. 9: Identifying what’s truly rare in books and tools to help me identify these books in my library. 10: I was most interested in the bindings from 1600-1900. The level of the course was appropriate. 11: All was relevant. Intellectually appropriate. 12: Yes, all the different subjects were of interest.


4)   If your course had field trips (including visits to the Dome Room, the McGregor Room, the hand printing presses in the Stettinius Gallery, the Etext Center, UVa’s Albert and Shirley Small Library, RBS’s Lower Tibet, &c.), were they effective?

1: Yes and Special Collections was brought to us. 2: Yes. 3: Field trip to Lower Tibet to look at publisher’s bindings was very interesting. 4: Special Collections “came to us” -- set up on the back table by special arrangement. The examples shown were quite interesting but getting through them was a little slow because we couldn’t handle them, and so had to wait for the instructor to bring them around to each of us individually. 5: Very much so. 6: Yes -- the presentation of RBS’s publisher’s bindings was excellent and comprehensive. UVa’s Special Collections gave permission to have their books brought to class and it was absolutely fantastic to see the real thing after studying the slides and literature. 7: N/A. 8: Yes. 9: The Special Collections tour led by Christian Dupont was a little long and superficial with so many participants -- would have loved to have seen lowest level stacks. 10: We took a field trip, which was very well spent. 11: Yes, time was always well spent. 12: Yes.


5)   What did you like best about the course?

1: I can’t tell for sure. Probably JSvL’s teaching style. I like the very much. I would take it again if I could. 2: Actually seeing examples rather than slides. 3: JSvL is an excellent teacher, and he made learning about bindings such a wonderful experience. I liked the combination of slides and looking at the real thing. 4: Learning the names of styles and how to recognize their evolution over time. I think the slides were most useful in teaching this. 5: The teacher’s great knowledge and his obvious joy of teaching the subject. 6: I liked all the opportunities to see actual bindings -- especially after having studied them and having seen them in the slides. I loved the final exercise in which we each described a binding -- that brought everything together. 7: JSvL’s enthusiasm for the subject and the breadth and depth of his knowledge. 8: JSvL’s obvious passion for the subject was plain to see and was imported during the course. His stories which were interspersed during the course were entertaining. A real asset to RBS. 9: Hands on -- seeing examples, describing rare books, “testing” our knowledge -- would have been good to take 15 books from beginning of class when we were untrained and go over identification features at end to see what we learned. 10: I liked examining the bindings best. 11: The instructor, JSvL is a nice mixture of intelligence and human being. He was delightful. His art history background is especially welcome. The books speak for themselves; always a treat. 12: JSvL extensive knowledge.


6)   How could the course have been improved?

1: I would have liked to spend more time on description of bindings (last day exercise). 2: More visits to Lower Tibet, less lecture formats. 3: Perhaps one suggestion would be to have more opportunities to practice with real bindings instead of just looking at them. Also, it would be nice to have more time after class to look at the bindings presented. 4: I really enjoyed the opening “guess the date” team exercise, and I would have liked another such activity later in the week, to see how much we had improved. I would also like more information on “non-fine” binding from pre-1800, like the information presented in the Pearson book. 5: It was great. I enjoyed it very much. I would have liked to stay in the room during breaks to look at the bindings. 6: It’s an excellent course. I would have loved the opportunity to try some tooling. 7: I would have enjoyed after dinner “book labs” in which we could practice identifying binding styles, time periods, country of origin, materials. Some of this could be done simply with photographs. One could do this at home, of course, with reference work, but the beauty of RBS is the feedback from experts! 8: Can’t think of anything. 9: The emphasis on lecture and slides became overwhelming at a point -- too much to absorb -- break out to two intro courses - by country or by date? 10: I wish we could have spent more time with actual bindings. The slides were good and very useful, but I would have liked to see more comparisons made -- this would have been possible with two projectors. That way, it would have been somewhat easier to understand differences between styles. 11: More time dedicated to doing book descriptions and related discussions. 12: Less slides of decorated bindings, more use of original materials.


7)   We are always concerned about the physical well-being both of the RBS teaching collections and of materials owned by UVa’s Special Collections. If relevant, what suggestions do you have for the improved classroom handling of such materials used in your course this week?

 2: To find a way so we could handle more books (maybe for a smaller class). 3: No specific suggestions. 4: The handling was if anything too cautious. It was disappointing not to be allowed to touch the books from UVa Special Collections. 5: The material was great. 6: I was very impressed with the handling of the materials. Special Collections gave JSvL permission to use some of their holdings up in the classroom and he, Barbara and Vince did an excellent job of taking care of the materials in showing them to us. 8: Handling of some book material was restricted in the course and as such the constraints imposed were to be expected.


8)   If you attended the Sunday and/or Monday night lectures, were they worth attending?

1-2: Yes. 3: Very much enjoyed the lectures in particular the one by Monique and Don. 4: Attended Sunday and Tuesday night -- both were interesting. The Etherington and Lallier talk was inspiring! 5: Absolutely. 6: Yes, very good lectures. I always learn something from both. 7: I enjoyed the Tuesday lecture with Don Etherington and Monique Lallier. I wasn’t able to attend the Michael Winship lecture. 8: Yes. 9: Enjoyed Etherington / Lallier presentation -- after full days in class, I really wanted my own time though. 10: Both lectures were very good. 11: Yes, both were wonderful. The receptions afterwards are both useful and enjoyable. 12: Yes.

9) If you attended evening activies, was the time profitably spent?

1: Video night could have been more “profitable” for me. 2: N/A. 3: Didn’t attend. 4: N/A. 5: I could have skipped the last one. 6: N/A. 7: Video Night was fine. The third film on how printing changed the world was unusual in its approach, but a good stimulus to thought. 8: Yes. 9: See above. 10: I did not attend video night. 12: Yes.


10) Did you get your money’s worth? Any final thoughts?

1: Absolutely! Advice: Do not stay in Brown College! This year it’s horrible! 2: Well worth my time and money. If you value books as a physical object in addition to what they contain you will enjoy and appreciate this class. It’s nice to be able to meet, work with, network and socialize with other librarians and book people. 3: I definitely got my money’s worth. An excellent overview of the history of bookbinding, encouragement to research and study bookbindings further and a very interesting, enthusiastic instructor. 4: I attended on scholarship and thought the process of applying, &c. was well worth the effort. I believe I learned a lot from the course and will be able to use this knowledge in my work. JSvL was a wonderful instructor, and I would recommend the course to anyone interested in the history of bookbinding. 5: Absolutely. I want to come back. 6: I absolutely got my money’s worth. My advice is the more you read beforehand, the more you get out of the course. 7: Yes, I was very confused about binding styles, fine binders, &c., when I arrived. I have had little exposure to either. I’m a little less confused now, and have been given a good basis from which to learn more on my own (a background in art history would have helped!). Certainly, as JSvL says, it’s a good thing to know what you don’t know. 8: Yes. Do it! 9: Money’s worth -- yes. Suggestions for future course -- appraising rare book collection for preservation purposes -- how to prioritize items for treatment based on scarce resources and need to justify to our institutions -- assigning market value, intrinsic &c. 10: I definitely got my money’s worth. JSvL is a wonderful instructor. This course has so much information, it could almost be two or three sessions! I would love an in-depth course on describing bindings. 11: Totally worth it. 12: Yes.

Number of respondents: 12


Leave                       Tuition                    Housing                   Travel

Institution                 Institution                 Institution                 Institution

gave me leave            paid tuition               paid housing              paid travel

83%                            67%                            59%                            59%

I took vaca-                I paid tui-                  I paid for my              I paid my own

tion time                    tion myself                 own housing              travel

17%                            0%                              36%                            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              scholarship                home

0%                              33%                            8%                              0%

There were 7 Rare book librarians (59 %); 2 archivist/manuscript librarians (17%), 2 conservator/binder/preservation librarians (17%), and 1 half-time student/support staff in a Rare book library (8%).