B-10. Introduction to the History of Bookbinding

Karen Limper-Herz

I came, I saw, I feel empowered with bookbinding knowledge!” — 2018 student

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 and, although it is not a detailed bindings course, it will include some practical exercises. 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, techniques, and materials; basic binding descriptions; decorated papers used in bindings; select publishers’ bindings; and modern hand bookbindings. The course will be conducted through a combination of PowerPoint presentations and the handling of physical objects, both from the holdings of Rare Book School and from the rich Special Collections of UVA, and will give students an opportunity to try their hand at tooling on leather.

Course History

Karen Limper-Herz teaches this course.
Jan Storm van Leeuwen teaches this course.
This course is cancelled for Summer 2020.

Course Resources

  • Advance Reading List
  • Evaluations for this course:

Related Courses


Karen Limper-Herz

Karen Limper-Herz

Karen Limper-Herz is Lead Curator for Incunabula and Sixteenth Century Printed Books at the British Library. A student of Mirjam Foot and Jan Storm van Leeuwen, she has worked with and studied bookbindings from different countries and periods for nearly twenty years, and regularly publishes and speaks about bookbindings in the U.K. and abroad. She is the Honorary Secretary and a Vice-President of the Bibliographical Society (U.K.) and regularly attends and speaks at the annual conferences organized by the Arbeitskreis für die Erfassung, Erschließung und Erhaltung historischer Bucheinbände (AEB) in Germany.

Full Bio »