Rare Book School

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Rare Book School
Preliminary Reading List

The Description of Bookbindings

Jan Storm van Leeuwen

Preliminary Advices


  1. Roberts, Matt T. [and] Don Etherington. Bookbinding and the conservation of books; a dictionary of descriptive terminology. Washington, 1982.
  2. The best and most comprehensive book in English; the text is also accessible on an Internet-site, which is regularly added to and corrected and therefore more useful than the book: http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/don/toc/toc1.html

  3. Jane Greenfield. ABC of bookbinding; a unique glossary with over 700 illustrations for collectors and librarians. New Castle, Carlton, 2002.
  4. Less extensive in its approach as Roberts/Etherington and with drawings instead of photographs but because of those sometimes more clear

  5. Binding terms; a thesaurus for use in rare book and special collections cataloguing. Prepared by the Committee of the Rare Book and Manuscript Section. Chicago, 1988.
  6. Important American thesaurus, unfortunately without explanation, and gradually a bit out of date – see also the site of the RBMS: http://www.rbms.info/committees/bibliographic_standards/controlled_vocabularies/index.shtml

Description: Books

There is no recent literature in English on the ways in which bindings can be described. The student is advised to study binding descriptions in as many of the following books as possible and to compare them to each other. The authors are all experts in the field, but they have chosen a different approach and different length of the description.

The Bookbinder

Description: Sites

The student is advised to have a thorough look at these sites as examples of different approaches and to observe what is being described and what isn’t. The student will be asked to give a commentary during the course on her/his findings and the relevance as to the sort of description needed for the collection they have to describe.