B-10. Introduction to the History of Bookbinding

Karen Limper-Herz

“The course was wonderful. I learned tons of new information and gained confidence in my ability to place bindings in time and place.” — 2017 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; 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; basic techniques and materials; 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, both from the holdings of Rare Book School and from the rich Special Collections of UVA.

Course History

2018–
Karen Limper-Herz teaches this course.
2002–2017
Jan Storm van Leeuwen teaches this course.

Course Resources

  • Advance Reading List
  • Evaluations for this course:

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Faculty

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 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.

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