Jan Storm van Leeuwen

B-10: Introduction to the History of Bookbinding

3-7 August 2009




1) How useful were the pre-course readings?


1: Very useful, but after seeing the full bibliography in our coursebook, which had some marked according to priority, I wish that could have been done on the list from the webpages. There were so many; I actually didn't get through them all before coming—so a prioritization would have helped me with time management. 2: Useful but difficult to attain in many cases. 3: Very, though I was only able to read passim and tried to look at as many illustrations as possible. 4: Quite useful for overview. 5: Very useful. I liked that the readings included a mix of broad overviews of the topic and more specific areas of study. Together, they laid an excellent groundwork to build on in class. 6: The readings were spot on—I was only able to get/read half of the books—but very good selection. 7: Extremely useful. Absolutely necessary (but only a starting point). 8: Very useful, up to a point. One of the reasons I wanted to take the class is that it's hard to learn about bindings from books, but the readings were good background and gave me a sense of the literature. 9: The readings were very useful. I had no experience with binding, and the readings gave me the general terminology and a bit of familiarity in order to get up to speed. I particularly liked Goldschmidt. 10: It is difficult to read most literature on bindings, but I found the Pearson book particularly clear and useful. 11: Readings were useful. 12: They were quite useful, though I should have read Pearson first, as it was of the most practical use. More readings on non-English bindings would be helpful, but perhaps there aren't many in English?


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


1: Oh, yes: both appropriate and useful (and the color photos are just lovely!). But, it wasn't clear if the coursebook was required or just recommended. The agenda seemed to indicate those readings were actual homework for Monday and Tuesday nights (so I did read those evenings—and Wednesday and Thursday too!) But others didn't because they thought the readings were for later consultation. 2: Yes though it would have very helpful to have had a chart or an outline giving dates, countries, and a list of characteristics relevant to dating books from a specific period. The timeline was somewhat helpful but more depth would have been preferable. A quick reference sheet or chart about the various persons would help a lot! 3: Yes—my notes and the syllabus will work well for future reference and as a study guide. Fuller captions on some of the illustrations would be a plus. 4: Absolutely. 5: I am certain I will refer to the coursebook often in the future. I will likely use the bibliography the most to both guide my study and review what I learned in class. 6: The handouts were useful after the lecture as review and therefore I think they will be used in the future. 7: Course packet was good—references (in print and online) are strong—general or particular bibliographies, good. 8: I will definitely refer to the course packet in my work, supplemented with my notes. 9: The workbook is a book in its own right! It is very useful and will serve as a reference in the future. 10: There's a lot of text in the course packet that I didn't have time to read while here, but will be very glad of at home. 11: Yes, useful and appropriate. 12: Yes, very much so.


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: I particularly appreciated the older examples because we don't get to see those often in libraries (for example the late medieval ones). For my own research interests, the Renaissance discussions were most relevant. The intellectual level was appropriate. 2: The c19 and c20 binding information was the most relevant for my work; however, I found the medieval and Renaissance and c20 designer bindings to be the most interesting. 3: The overview of structure and historical styles was just what I wanted. The c19 publisher's bindings and fine c20 bindings are not particularly relevant to my work, but they are interesting and aid general understanding. 4: Level was just right. Most grateful for knowledge of all different ways of examining bindings to determine origins. Considered overview of history and development equally valuable. 5: The intellectual level of the course felt just right to me. The course content was broad enough to provide a strong overview, but with quite a bit of detail in certain areas. I was most interested in learning to date and localize bindings from roughly the c17-c19 since this is what I need most in my work. 6: The hand-out aspect of the course was superb especially read right after the lecture or in the evening. 7: Exposure to bindings and binders. Dating. The nature of the study of bindings make it hard to pin down dates for their manufacture, but more precision would be welcome. 8: Just learning what to look for on bindings and how to see them was of most relevance to me. I thought the intellectual of the course was good, and explanations were offered for unfamiliar concepts. 9: The level of the course was appropriate. The luxury bindings were of more interest to me than the publishers' bindings, but the introduction to everything up to present day was useful. 10: I thought the course was structured well, with enough physical examples to support and reinforce the PowerPoint survey. Perhaps we spent too much time looking at paper samples. I enjoyed the "quiz" aspects because they helped reinforce the material. 11: Being able to know now what may be significant in my collection that I did not know before. Also, identification of binding types and techniques used to create them. 12: Yes—intellectual level was appropriate. The most useful aspects for me were the medieval and Renaissance bindings, though I also enjoyed the c20 and Islamic bindings a lot.


4) If your course left its classroom to visit Special Collections (SC) or to make other field trips away from your classroom, was the time devoted to this purpose well spent?


1: The time in SC seeing the material there was very important in supplementing the RBS material and the PowerPoint images. 2: Yes—it was a wonderful supplement to the PowerPoint and serves as a good review of the class. 3: Yes. In an ideal world one would be able to consult originals and PowerPoint at the same time but I understand why this would be difficult. Lower Tibet was a bit tough—hard to get close enough to see when JSvL was speaking. Perhaps a slightly smaller table(s), fewer examples, and a bit more room to gather round. 4: Yes—to see actual objects. Number of objects in Lower Tibet trip perhaps could have been edited a bit to better effect. 5: Yes. We were able to see numerous examples of materials we had discussed or seen in slides. Many details were only apparent when you saw the binding in person. This was enormously helpful, and truly solidified what we had learned in the lectures. 6: Very good and most were needed in order to reinforce the lecture notes. 7: Yes. Probably the most essential. Would welcome more time there. 8: Time in SC was very well spent. It was great to see real examples of what we had only seen in PowerPoint, and to look at details. It was also excellent reinforcement of the material. Time in Lower Tibet was also useful for similar reasons. 9: SC time was awesome. There is nothing to compare to seeing the real thing, and UVA has some great examples. We spent 3 sessions there, and I wish there could be even one more. 10: Excellent, valuable experience. Needed to see actual books instead of photos. 11: Yes, very well spent. 12: Yes—seeing the bindings in person is essential.


5) What did you like best about the course?


1: Well, of course: JSvL! He has a wealth of wonderful knowledge, and is such a personable instructor. So charming. I can't say enough in praise of his scholarly and teaching abilities. 2: Getting the chance to see such a wide variety of bindings that I otherwise would never have seen. 3: JSvL—a rare combination of deep knowledge, gracious good humor, and patience. A natural teacher. His enthusiasm for ongoing research is contagious! 4: Opportunity to learn directly from soneone with such wide and deep experience—and he was quite approachable. 5: JSvL! He is so knowledgeable, and he is an excellent instructor. I liked the way the course was structured with the visit to SC following the lecture. 6: The professor and his personal experiences, especially when talking about contemporary binders. 7: Modern fine bindings. 9: I think that I leave this course with an idea of what to look for when I looked at a binding. I may not remember every detail, but I have the tools now to notice the important details and to be able to look up whatever else would complete the full story a binding can tell. 10: JSvL, of course. His love of the field is contagious. I am leaving here inspired. 11: The instructor. JSvL is terrific. 12: JSvL! His stories enliven the course, his knowledge enriches as well.


6) How could the course have been improved?


1: Keep JSvL teaching it. In terms of improvement, better flow for class participation (like while passing things or walking in a line past books). Better presentation during those exercises would help, for example. Putting the RBS reference books in the center of the tables instead of passing them. Also having a long table in Special Collections instead of just a few books on a small table to walk past. 2: As mentioned in #2—having a better graphic organizer (i.e. chart) would be helpful. Having to constantly read through a stock of notes or the syllabus (written textbook style) was cumbersome. A concise (but more in-depth than current timeline) description of characteristics of bindings, when the characteristics are present, and in which countries would be REALLY HELPFUL. Also, I would have liked to have seen more examples of more common bindings—I loved the books we studied but seeing the more common books would have been useful to my work which is after all my reason for attendance. 3: Think of dividing the course into two chronological sections i.e. two separate courses. We really galloped through much of the material. 4: At some point, perhaps splitting the time span covered into two courses? Felt as though we were often running. 5: There was one session where we had almost too many bindings to see (when we looked at publishers' bindings). While seeing so many gave me an excellent sense of the range of styles, I think I might have learned more in this particular session by concentrating on fewer examples. 6: Personally, I would like more time on c20/c21 bindery/bindings (more women have become involved during this time and their styles provide a unique view/style). 7: More show and tell (at a quicker pace too) instead of PowerPoint, if possible. 8: If possible, it might have been nice to have some of the objects from Lower Tibet brought up to the classroom and passed around at relevant points. This would also break up the PowerPoint. 9: The course is great as it is. 10: Not sure. The only downfall of the course is the sheer amount of information being conveyed, but I'm not sure if there's a better way to convey it, apart from downloading JSvL's brain into each one of us. 11: More time to try to do stamping (tooling) of leather. Maybe even try to do a foil stamping with heated tool. 12: The course is excellent. It would be nice to know a bit more about Italian and Spanish bindings, but this isn't JSvL's specialty. It would be really useful to have a different course on Islamic bindings.


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?


1: In our room, when the RBS reference books were passed around, some people were splatting them open flat on the tables—and some people were writing with pens around those books. I personally feel we should treat all books with the same care as the older ones: cradled to look at, and only pencils around them. Also, in Lower Tibet, the tables were too crowded with books, and one was actually knocked off onto the floor. 2: Not concerned. 3: Fewer examples in Lower Tibet. Time to consult the class exhibits after class. 5: I don't have any suggestions. I felt the collections were handled carefully. 6: RBS allowed us to handle many items in the classroom which was wonderful. In SC, I was surprised that we were strongly told not to touch, even though most of us deal with rare items daily. 7: Collections well looked after. 9: Materials were handled appropriately during all sessions. 10: Everyone was respectful. 11: It would be nice to have larger spaces—the rooms are too small. 12: Generally quite good, though there was one student who touched the items a fair amount when we had been told not to do so.


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


1: It's great that RBS offers them, but I didn't find time to attend. (This year, I just wanted to retreat to my Hampton Hotel room to study. I relished those evenings away from home and work distractions to really focus my mind on historical bookbindings. So, I happily devoured our coursebook, and pondered over our daily class notes.) 2: I attended the video night and enjoyed all of the videos—especially the one about Cook's voyage. It was also a treat to see the Audobons. 3: Yes—especially the two museum nights. Some information I knew already but there was much new. 4: Enjoyed videos, museum visits, and Terry Belanger's Audubon lecture. 5: Yes—I enjoyed them all. I particularly enjoyed TB's presentation on the Audobons and the printing museum night. Study night was very useful for pursuing my own particular interests. 6: Yes—the video interesting, especially Terry's talk. The paper and print museum items well done and excellent samples. 7: Study night was good. Lecture was heavy on academic mumbo-jumbo, but interesting nonetheless. 8: The events I attended were definitely worthwhile. The museums were a little overwhelming. I particularly enjoyed TB's discussion of the Audobon reprints/reproductions. 10: The Monday night lecture was excellent. Also enjoyed TB's Audobon presentation. 11: Yes. 12: I enjoyed the Paper Museum, TB's opening talk and Audobon talk, and study night.


9) Did you get your money's worth? Any final or summary thoughts, or advice for other persons considering taking this course in a future year?


1: Oh yes, these RBS courses are always well worth it. This year, I want to gratefully thank those responsible for my IMLS Scholarship. Advice for anyone thinking about taking JSvL's course? Take it—it's wonderful! (Thank you, JSvL.) 2: Yes—it was wonderful. JSvL was very sweet, engaging, and a wealth of knowledge about binding. I wish the class had been a month long—there wasn't time to ask questions. 3: Absolutely. Advice—do as much reading and looking as possible before arriving. Make sketches in your notes if you can. Enjoy your fellow students. Thanks for a great week. 4: It was just what I needed and then some, enabling me to return to my museum's collection of illustrated books with much better ability to research and assess the bindings. Also can now publicize and speak about the binding aspect of the collection. 5: Absolutely, I can't wait to come back. 6: Yes! 7: Advice: read the reading lists on your own. Then go to a repository with strong collections and check bindings out yourself. Also, take book binding workshops if you're into that. Don't wait to the last minute for your travel arrangements—it can get expensive. 8: I definitely got my money's worth. The course moved extremely fast and covered a lot of ground, but it had to in order to fit the material within the time limits of the session. The course was excellent, and I would highly recommend it. 9: Yes! This is a great course. JSvL is kind, gentle, and knowledgeable, and does an excellent job. 10: I think this course is good for all levels because it is so rich. I definitely got my money's worth. 11: For me it was actually advantageous to take Sue Allen's course first and JSvL's class second. 12: Oh yes. A truly wonderful overview of codex bindings in western Europe.


Number of respondents: 12





Institution gave me leave: 75%

I took vacation time: 0%

N/A: self-employed, retired, or had summers off: 25%



Institution paid tuition: 50%

I paid tuition myself: 0%

N/A: self-employed, retired, or scholarship: 50%



Instution paid housing: 50%

I paid for my own housing: 33%

N/A: stayed with friends or lived at home: 17%



Institution paid travel: 50%

I paid my own travel: 33%

N/A: lived nearby: 17%


There were 4 rare book librarians (33%), 1 general librarian with some rare book duties (8%), 2 full-time students (17%), 1 antiquarian bookseller (8%), 3 conservators/binders/preservation librarians (25%), and 1 museum employee in work not directly related to library (8%).