Jan Storm van Leeuwen

B-10: Introduction to the History of Bookbinding

16–20 July 2012

1)    How useful were the pre-course readings? (Leave blank if you applied and were accepted late for the course, and thus did not get the list in time.)

1: The pre-course readings were useful and relevant, but difficult to locate copies of. It might be good to note this on the website—and that the instructor recognizes this issue and doesn't expect everyone to read everything. 2: Readings were very useful but it might have been helpful to know which ones to focus on depending on your background. 3: I thought they were useful. They allowed me to come with a good general background on the subject. 4: The readings were a perfect means of getting a handle on the topic in advance. 5: Very useful. I have read literature in my own language (Polish). 6: Very useful; it gives us a first touch to a huge matter. 7: I was unable to track down all of the pre-course readings, granted they were more recommendations but perhaps the list could include URLs for the new websites from the Folger, the Walters and the British Library that feature their bindings. 8: Pre-course readings were very helpful. I would recommend leaving plenty of time for Pearson, as it seemed to have the most practical information in terms of identifying materials, styles, &c. Lock was hard to come by. 9: It was difficult for me to get access to many of these books. I was not able to prepare very much. I read relevant sections of Gaskell on my own and felt I could follow well. I will likely take the advance readings more as follow-up when I can get to them. 10: I had read or skimmed several of the readings previously, and read as much as I could (and as much as I could find). The readings were very useful and I suspect that I will be referring back to them from now on. 11: Very useful. 12: Very useful but the material is difficult to find. 13: What I was able to obtain was very useful; unfortunately most of the books are very hard to obtain, even in libraries. 14: Very relevant—but it will be easier now for me to read them after the course. I now understand the structures of the binding so much better, and am more familiar with the terminology.

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

1: The course workbook was useful and appropriate. An additional set of materials that might have been helpful: a show list for the SC visit? 2: Yes, on both counts. 3: They were useful. One problem with the workbook: the illustration numbers are out of synch with the references to them in the text. But it's not a big problem. 4: Yes, very appropriate and will be quite useful to me in the future. 5: Yes. 6: Absolutely. I will use these in the future; they are very well done; good explanations with pictures. Very useful and concise. 7: The workbook is OK. I don't think it will replace my other reference books. 8: Absolutely, I will use the workbook in my job in the future. 9: Yes. Looks to be a particularly good resource to hold on to. 10: Yes! I have no doubt that they will serve as useful reference material. 11: Very appropriate and useful. I read them all in my spare time and will refer to them at home. 12: Yes, also very useful. 13: Yes, very much so. 14: Yes—but I do look forward to JSvL's book.

3) Have you taken one or more RBS courses before? If so, how did this course compare with your previous coursework?

1: I have taken three RBS courses before. This course involved considerably more in the way of material objects, and really draws on the strengths of the RBS collections. 2: No. 3: I took "Introduction to the Principles of Bibliographical Description" in 2008. This was a somewhat different course. That one was on learning a pretty narrowly defined skill, while this one gave a broader appreciation of a field. 4: I've taken a number of classes. This was of the same high quality in teaching and exposure to materials. I couldn't choose a "best" course or compare among them; the quality is consistently so high. 5: It's my first time. 6: No. 7: I have taken other RBS courses and I think this one was slightly better than some of the others. The instructor set a very reasonable pace for the lectures and the book review sessions and stayed on time so that we had time for questions and discussion. 8: Yes. Both courses I've taken were incredibly different but equally rich. 9: Yes. By its nature, this was much more lecture style than workshop, but very appropriate to the subject. 10: I was fortunate to take Sue Allen's (SA) class, which was of course wonderful. I think JSvL can be favorably compared to SA with his knowledge for his subject, his great enthusiasm, and his kindness. 11: Yes. This course compares very favorably. 12: This course was one of the best, but all the courses have been great. 13: At the highest RBS level, which is saying something. 14: One of the best.

4)    What aspects of the course content were of the greatest interest or relevance for your purposes?

1: Although I was most interested in c17 bindings, this course helped me put the design and workmanship of this period in a broader historical context, and more generally helped train my eye in dating and localizing bindings. 2: All information that will help me place a binding in time and identify its place of origin is relevant for me. 3: Learning to recognize the different binding materials and techniques. Also, recognizing the historical progression of styles. 4: All aspects worked well together. I was most in need of exposure to materials to begin to identify bindings. 5: Techniques and materials. 6: Naturally JSvL ... he is amazing, and an amazing source of knowledge. Greatly generous of passing it to us. Passion. What MFS said: love, passion, knowledge, and VG .... 7: The breadth of the content filled in gaps of my knowledge of bookbinding history and gave me access to books/details that I will not likely see in my current work library. 8: Identification of materials and styles of bookbinding. Binding structure was important, but less central to my needs. 9: Material related to my period, of course, but I am grateful to have the fuller breadth. This is why I came. 10: The information on how to tie particular styles, trends, and motifs to countries and decades was especially useful. 11: I particularly liked the identification exercises, which gave me good practice. 12: The instructor's amazing knowledge and fantastic stories. 13: I can't really say—all of it was fascinating. 14: Identifying materials and techniques used in the more utilitarian bindings.

5)    Did the instructor(s) successfully help you to acquire the information and skills that the course was intended to convey? Was the intellectual level of the course appropriate?

1:  JSvL's teaching compressed a tremendous amount of information into a brief span of days. The amount of information was just right, and the level of presentation. 2: Yes. The amount of information seems overwhelming but by Thursday and Friday it becomes clear that a lot of it is sinking in. 3: JSvL was very helpful. I think the intellectual level was appropriate. 4: Yes, yes. 5: Instructors were really helpful. I get answers for all my questions. Intellectual level was great! 6: Absolutely. Didactical material was on purpose perfectly adapted to the content. Absolutely. High level, stimulating. 7: Yes, and yes. 8: Yes. 9: I was a complete novice at the beginning of this course. I was a bit intimidated to be with many more knowledgeable students (many conservators!), but I found that the format really allowed for multiple levels of experience and background. I feel much more knowledgeable now. At least I know what to look for and which questions to ask. 10: Yes! Some of the coursework was review, but all of the information was great. It was particularly useful to have a focus on some of the more northern countries; I was previously familiar with Germany, England, and France, so this filled a large gap. 11: There were all levels of expertise in the class, and the instructor did an excellent job of teaching to all levels at once—not an easy task. 12: Yes, quite appropriate. 13: Yes; and the intellectual level was as high as I could wish. 14: Yes—the level was very appropriate.

6) What did you like best about the course?

1: I enjoyed hearing JSvL presenting his thoughts about his current research and open problems and questions, because it allowed us a glimpse into the way he thinks about the history of bookbindings as an active researcher in the field. I also enjoyed hearing JSvL's openness to the class's thoughts and suggestions regarding his findings! He models good scholarship for us all. 2: JSvL, and his enthusiasm for and knowledge of the subject matter. 3: I enjoyed his lectures and the opportunity to stop him to ask questions. 4: The exercises—both the skin identification and the identification of place and time of bindings. 5: 1) Instructors! 2) Atmosphere! 3) A lot of examples. 4) Discussions. 6: I was in a candy shop! Like a kid, this course offered me method, understanding, tricks, a connoisseurship that is so precious for the future of my research. Like best = JSvL. 8: The two tests were a great opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills I gained in the course. The SC portion of the course was also a highlight. 9: "Quizzes" on bindings were an excellent way to reinforce lecture material. JSvL's anecdotes conveyed more knowledge and theory than simple stories. 10: JSvL's enthusiasm, knowledge, and passion for bindings is such an inspiration. 11: The best thing about this course is the instructor, JSvL, who is one of the world's reigning authorities on the subject. He has a wonderful sense of humor, a keen pair of eyes, and is able to articulate the visual subtleties that are so necessary to the appreciation of the history of bookbinding. 12: By far, the instructor. 13: The visit to Special Collections—seeing the older bindings. 14: Very nice balance between overview (the PowerPoint presentations) and the human stories. And it was/is such a privilege to be a student of JSvL.

7) How could the course have been improved?

1: It would be helpful if the class had a set of loupes for examining the bindings, and perhaps a few small lamps on hand? The room is lit relatively dimly so that it is sometimes hard to see detail. 2: During the decorated paper segment I felt we spent too much time on modern marbled papers and not enough on the many other types of decorated paper one encounters. Some kind of general timeline might be nice, too. 3: I thought our class space was a bit cramped. I appreciate that we were all able to take the course, but perhaps this room is not appropriate for so many people. 4: I would've welcomed homework in the form of more rounds of exercises. Perhaps a self-study night with bindings to study and an answer key available to confirm answers independently would be a good addition. 5: Maybe more exercises? Maybe we could describe more bindings? 6: Add another week ... for assimilating all the information. 8: It would have been helpful to have labels to go with the marbled paper demonstration. It was easy to miss what the instructor was saying while we were inspecting so many samples. I would have also liked more monitoring of the first-hand viewing portion of the SC visit, to make sure that everyone had an equal opportunity to handle the materials. 9: More "quizzes" for reinforcement of knowledge? Possibility for students to bring in, say, photographs of a single curious case to share and discuss? 10: Not sure—it was excellent. 11: I can't imagine how it could be improved. I look forward to the completion and publication of the text that JSvL is writing on the subject, as it will provide excellent background. 12: It could have been longer. 13: It could be a week longer? 14: More time (haha!) to test what we have learned. I would love a course on binding descriptions.

8)    Did you learn what the course description/advertisements indicated you would learn?

1–5: Yes. 6: Yes. Absolutely and more. 7–14: Yes.

9)    Did you learn what you wanted to learn in the course?

1–5: Yes. 6: Yes. Absolutely and more. 7–8: Yes. 9: What I didn't learn specifically I feel I have the basic tools to pursue on my own. 10: Yes. I would like to have (and plan to construct) a sort of timeline to use as reference with regards to binding styles and tooling styles by both century and country. 11–14: Yes.

10)  How do you intend to use or apply the knowledge or skills learned in this course?

1: I will use my knowledge from this course to better describe the bindings I encounter in my research. 2:  I hope that being better able to recognize bindings by period and origin I will make better decisions about conservation treatments. 3: It will enable me to describe bindings better in my cataloging descriptions. 4: I can help readers in need of information on our bindings at my library. I can also better assist remote readers interested in bindings and provenance. 5: It will be very helpful in my Ph.D. thesis. 6: On my research as a Ph.D. student in art history, working on bookbinding of my country. It gave me tools, a little part of jaw's eye [sic]. 7: I will use this knowledge to direct my research as I prepare treatment proposals for conservation. 8: Catalog descriptions, conservation decisions, and acquisitions. 9: In research and teaching. 10: I'm hoping to be able to better identify manuscripts that have been rebound or restored, and determine when and where that work may have been done (if not concurrent with the original text). 11: I will never look at bindings the same way after this course. 12: It would be nice to continue the study of bookbindings. In particular, using the methods and approach of the instructor. 13: Personal collecting and in bookselling. 14: I will be more comfortable in adding binding descriptions to the catalog records or book descriptions that I prepare. I am also convinced that they are very worthwhile.

11)  If your made any trips away from your classroom, was the time devoted to this purpose well spent?

1: The time in SC was well spent. 3: I think it was because we saw more examples of bindings. 4: The sessions at UVA SC were all time well spent. 5: Yes! 6: Yes. 7: The time in SC was very helpful. 8: As stated the SC visit was very valuable. 9: SC sessions were extremely helpful! 10: We went to SC at UVA, and it was great to be able to look at actual binding examples. 11: I really appreciated the visits to SC and the opportunity to closely examine the books there. 12: Yes, our time at SC was very well spent as it was important to see additional examples. 13–14: Yes.

12) If you attended the optional evening events (e.g., RBS Lecture, Video Night, RBS Forum, Booksellers' Night) were they worth attending?

1: The lecture and forum this week were both worth attending and relevant to the course content, coincidentally. 2: Lectures were worthwhile—didn't attend others. 3: I thought the lectures were worth attending, but I was pretty sleepy during the Wednesday lecture. 4: The lecture and forum were both great. I appreciate in general having related programs available in the evenings. 5-6: Yes. 7: I attended both lectures—the Dieu Donne lecture was somewhat disappointing. It seemed to be a brief series of highlights and then jump up to look at the work, but there were too many people crowded around the tables. 8: Yes, all. 9: Stuart Bennett (SB) lecture, of course! The discussion of the lecture the next day was perhaps even more helpful. 10: I attended all of the events, and they were well worth attending. 11: Both lectures were excellent. 12: Yes, very worthwhile. 13: Lectures—very much so. Booksellers' Night—very much so. Others—N/A. 14: Lectures were awesome. Booksellers' Night so much fun!

13)  We are always concerned about the physical well-being both of the RBS teaching  collections and of materials owned by the 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: More bookends might be useful for organizing the materials on the SHANTI shelves. 6: I think that the proximity of real marvelous bookbindings that we can see and touch. Thanks! We are lucky! 9: I appreciated being told what we should and should not handle. 10: N/A. 11: I think proper care was taken of the teaching collections. 12: The materials seemed to be handled with extreme care, both by the instructors and the students. 13: In SC many students slid books on the table. Perhaps lay them on mylar sheets to prevent rubbing?

14)  Did you get your (or your institutions) money's worth? Would you recommend this course to others?

1: I would recommend this course to anyone interested in the history of bookbinding. 2: Yes! 3: Yes, and I would recommend it. 4: Yes, and yes. 5: It was a really good time. I can recommend this course to everybody. 6: Yes. 7–9: Yes, and yes. 10: Yes—I love attending RBS and meeting other people who are equally interested in books and manuscripts. I feel so lucky to have had the chance to learn from JSvL, who is absolutely brilliant and wonderful. 11: Yes, and the same! I would recommend the course to others. 12: I would definitely encourage anyone to take this course. Even if the study of bookbinding history is not a personal interest the opportunity to spend time with the instructor is priceless. 13: Yes, yes. 14: Absolutely!

15)  Any final or summary thoughts, or advice for other persons considering taking this course in a future year? (If you have further RBS praise or concerns, or if you have suggestions for a new course, please contact Amanda Nelsen [an2b@virginia.edu] or Michael Suarez [mfs3x@virginia.edu].)

1: If you have a binding of your own that is a puzzle to you, it is great fun to bring it along to this course to discuss it with classmates—and, of course, JSvL! 2: Do as much of the reading as possible. Bring a reading lamp if you are staying in the dorm. Bring business cards. Talk to everyone, because they invariably know different things than you do. 3: I feel really privileged to have studied under JSvL and VG and with such an interesting group of people. 6: Many thanks for the scholarship and the opportunity to be at the Rare Book School! 7: It would be nice to have the instructor's list of books requested from SC. 11: It helps to do all of the reading in advance. 13: I recommend it most enthusiastically, only be aware that you will come away from it realizing how little you know—as is true for every RBS course. 14: I have been here many times, but this time, perhaps more than ever, I felt the community that MFS talked about on Sunday night (I wonder if it has more to do with my expectations or with the group). I came here to learn (and did) and everything else would have been a bonus, but I got so much more. Faculty and staff are not only so approachable, but they also approach us, the students. I was very pleasantly surprised that the instructors of the other course would take the time to get to know the students in the other classes. I could go on and on but before I forget I must also add how much in awe I am of the collection here at RBS. It is amazing what you are able to show us.

Number of respondents:  14





Institution gave me leave


8 (57%)


I took vacation time


1 (7%)


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


5 (36%)


I am self-employed

Work has nothing to do with RBS course






Institution paid tuition


9 (65%)


Institution paid tuition ___%




I paid tuition myself


2 (14%)


Exchange or barter


1 (7%)


N/A: Self-employed, retired or scholarship


2 (14%)


Institution paid housing


3 (21%)­


Institution paid for ___% of housing




I paid for my own housing


7 (50%)


N/A: stayed with friends or lived at home


4 (29%)





Institution paid travel


4 (29%)


Institution paid ___% of my travel


1 (7%)


I paid my own travel


6 (43%)


N/A: live nearby


3 (21%)





There were two book collectors (14%), four conservators (29%), one rare book librarian (7%), two librarians with rare book duties (14%), one PhD student in the humanities (7%), one PhD student in art history (7%), one full or associate professor (7%), one antiquarian bookseller (7%), and one cataloguer (7%).


How did you hear about this course?


RBS Website

4 (29%)

Work Colleague

3 (21%)


3 (21%)



Word of mouth

4 (29%)





Where did you stay?

Brown College 6 (43%)

Cavalier Inn 1 (7%)

Courtyard Marriott 1 (7%)

Hampton Inn & Suites 1 (7%)

Other 5 (36%)