B-70. European Decorative Bookbinding

A historical approach to bookbinding, tracing influences from the Near- and Middle-East through Europe, with examples from the eighth century to the late twentieth century. Topics include: the emergence and development of various decorative techniques and styles; readership and collecting; the history of bookbinding in a wider historical context; the pitfalls and possibilities of binding research. Enrollment in this course is limited to those who have already taken either Jan Storm van Leeuwen’s Introduction to the History of Bookbinding (B-10) or Nicholas Pickwoad’s European Bookbinding, 1500-1800 (B-60).

There are two ways in which to approach the history of European decorative bindings: chronologically and thematically. This course combines both, in that it will treat decorative bookbinding in a series of themes and episodes. The themes (the relation between form and use; the influence of the spread of learning and the increase in readership on binding structure and design; styles and designs; patronage and collecting; the economics of the binding trade) may cover considerable chronological periods. They will be illustrated by episodes: in-depth treatment of specific manifestations or specific periods (e.g. twelfth-century Paris; monastic reform; turbulence in the nineteenth century). The course will be extensively illustrated with slides, and there will be a field trip to inspect actual examples.

The course is aimed at librarians, antiquarian book dealers, collectors, and conservators with an interest in history. Students should have a basic knowledge of European history and of the history of book production, as well as an understanding of book structures and a familiarity with bibliographical description and bookbinding terms. Please indicate any relevant previous training and/or experience you have had in this field, and state your own area of special interest. NB: students will in general not be able to touch or handle personally the books shown to them in class, because of the fragility and/or value of the material being used. Students who suspect that they will find this restriction overly frustrating are discouraged from applying for admission to the course.

Course History

Mirjam Foot taught this course several times during this period.
This course is not currently being offered. Please do not list on any RBS fellowship or scholarship applications.

Course Resources

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