Rare Book School

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B-10. Introduction to the History of Bookbinding

Jan Storm van Leeuwen

A bookbinding has two main functions. It protects its text block against wear and tear, and, by its structure, it makes a book out of a heap of otherwise separate leaves or quires. Through the ages, the covers, spine, fore-edge and other parts of the book have been decorated in almost every conceivable manner, technique, and material, thereby turning the binding into a work of decorative art. This introductory course focuses on the history of fine binding, but will also discuss the principal techniques and materials used in the West throughout binding's long history. It is intended for those who wish to develop a better understanding of the history of the field; it is not a practical binding course. It is aimed at historians, special collections personnel, collectors, dealers, conservators and bookbinders, and others with an interest in the binding and its history.

Special topics include: basic terminology; decorated papers used in binding; the history of publishers' bindings. The course will be conducted through a combination of PowerPoint presentations and the handling of physical objects.


Course Resources

  • Preliminary Reading List
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Course History


Jan Storm van Leeuwen teaches this course for the first time.