ABAA-RBS Seminar Series 2016

Rare Book School and the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) are co-sponsoring a one-day seminar series at the North Bennet Street School in Boston, MA (map) on Thursday, 27 October 2016 (just prior to the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair). These seminars have been designed to be of interest to book collectors and booksellers, but signup is open to anyone with an interest in the topics covered. The cost to attend the seminar series is $500.

As space is limited, signup for the seminar series will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis. As part of the signup process, you will be asked to rank your choices for each concurrent session, and these will be assigned until each seminar has reached capacity. Participants will also receive a pass to the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair.

Seminar Series Schedule

A final banquet following the seminar series will be scheduled if participants express interest. Likewise, optional events (visits to Boston-area libraries, bookstores, &c.) may be organized on the morning of Friday, 28 October if there is interest.

Signup Process

  • Fill out the seminar signup form (www.rarebookschool.org/seminarsignup2016). You will be asked to rank your seminar preferences for each session: these will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis until each seminar has reached capacity. Early bird registration (by 19 September) is strongly recommended. If you have any trouble with the signup form, please email seminars@virginia.edu or call Jeremy Dibbell at 434-243-7077.
  • Once seminar session assignments have been made, you will receive an email confirming your seminar sessions and containing a link through which to submit payment. Your payment will serve to reserve your seat in the seminar series.
  • Final details about the seminar series will be sent via email prior to the event.

Seminar Descriptions

“Basic Introduction to Book Illustration Processes” (same seminar offered in Sessions I, II, and III). Terry Belanger. A basic introduction to book illustration processes, 1500–1900, aimed at beginners: those who have never taken a course on this subject (especially the RBS illustration processes identification course). Processes covered include relief (woodcuts, wood-engravings), intaglio (line and total engravings, steel engravings), and lithography, with a coda on photo-chemico-mechanical reproduction. The course will be taught entirely from original examples of these processes, together with examples of the printing surfaces (wood, metal, and stone) that produced them. Please note that this seminar is being offered during three sessions of the seminar series.

“‘I Cannot Live Without Books’: An Introduction to Provenance” (Session I). David Whitesell. Books are physical objects which, over time, accumulate evidence for how and by whom they have been used. This session will explore two interrelated aspects of provenance: the physical transformation books undergo in their owners’ hands, and the physical evidence of a book’s ownership and use. Topics include: the physical changes to which books are subject and what these reveal about a book’s life history; a survey of individual, institutional, and book trade ownership markings; methods for researching and recording provenance, and some key reference sources; and provenance as a strategy for collecting and bookselling.

“Introduction to Bookbinding Structures, 1500–1750” (Session I). Todd Pattison. When a book’s covering material is in good condition, it can be difficult to identify the construction techniques used to put the binding together. Using PowerPoint slides, binding models, and period bindings, we will examine the most common bookbinding structures used in Western Europe between 1500 and 1750. The focus of this session will be structure and the visible elements that help illuminate how bindings were produced. We will discuss hand-tooling and other decoration as time allows.

“Research and Description of Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Printed Books” (Session II). Nina Musinsky. How does one become acquainted with an early printed book? Where does one start? In the age of digitization, those who work with or collect fifteenth- and sixteenth-century books know in theory that their physical features shed important light on their historical reception, can contribute to an understanding of their contents, and are worthy objects of study in themselves, but precise understanding of the books in their charge may elude them. Using PowerPoint slides, catalog descriptions, and some original examples, this seminar will provide an overview of research methods and approaches to understanding and describing the typography, illustrations, bindings, and paper of early printed books, and will briefly survey some of the major online and printed reference sources in these areas.

“Introduction to the Hand-Press Period Book” (Session II). David Whitesell. Intended for those wishing to delve beneath the title-page and text, this session will offer a brief introduction to the physical aspects of hand-press period books (i.e., printed before c.1830). Topics include: paper, typography, printing (relief and intaglio), illustration, structure (format and collation), characteristic features, and a brief coda on binding materials. Participants will gain a better appreciation for the book as an object and the relevance of its physical aspects for collecting and bookselling; become more comfortable reading catalog descriptions and bibliographies; and receive directed guidance in where to find more information on the topics covered.

“Form and Content: European Printed Books, Manuscripts, and Works on Paper, 1601–1830” (Session III). Nina Musinsky. This seminar will use the same example-driven approach as in the previous session, but will focus on the later hand-press period in Europe, and will also include manuscripts, broadsides, and ephemera. These case studies will show how close attention to the form and content of each book or manuscript can illuminate the meaning, social function, and scholarly research value of each document.

“Introduction to the Development of Case Bookbinding Structures, 1760–1840” (Session III). Todd Pattison. Case binding, where a cover and a text block are constructed separately and then adhered together as a final finishing step, supplemented and then mostly replaced laced-in structures beginning in the nineteenth century. Using PowerPoint slides, period bindings, binding models, and a demonstration, this session will examine the development of the case binding from laced-in structures through an intermediate structure that is seldom noted but was commonly used in the period before the case binding became commonplace. The session will also discuss how to identify a case binding during this time period using elements of structure and decoration.

“Defining a Bookselling Specialty for Contemporary Trends” (Session III). Don Lindgren. How does one navigate antiquarian materials in ways relevant to contemporary private collectors and the current needs of special collections? We will look at building a specialty, using cookbooks and gastronomy as an example. Particular attention will be paid to using current trends when cataloging and list-making, discovering groups of dedicated enthusiasts outside of the traditional book collecting and library worlds, and taking advantage of the new tools of the digital humanities to gauge the interests and needs of scholars and librarians. We will discuss how adapting a bookselling business to address changes in the popular and academic cultures can lead to a broader customer base and better relationships with collectors and institutions.

“American Printing During the Hand-Press Period” (Session IV). David Whitesell. An introduction to printing in the American Colonies and the Early Republic up to c.1800. This session will explore the interconnectedness between American printers and their British counterparts by focusing on materials and methods; publishing and bookselling strategies; bookbinding; and the diverse products of the printing press, including books, pamphlets, almanacs, newspapers, broadsides, and job printing. Participants will also be introduced to the key databases and reference works in the field, as well as various strategies for collecting and selling early American imprints.

“Introduction to the Industrialization of Bookbinding in America, 1820–1905” (Session IV). Todd Pattison. Nineteenth-century publishers’ bindings, particularly cloth cases, are often referred to or thought of as being machine-made, but all the processes of bookbinding were not fully aided by machines until after 1900. Using PowerPoint slides and period bindings this session will examine the industrialization of American bookbinding during the nineteenth century, the introduction of machinery to assist different tasks and the important role that women played in the manufacture of nineteenth-century bindings. We will discuss decoration of bindings, both cloth and leather, as time allows.

Seminar Instructors

Terry Belanger retired in September 2009 as founding Director of Rare Book School and University Professor and Honorary Curator of Special Collections at the University of Virginia. He is a 2005 MacArthur fellow.

Don Lindgren is an antiquarian bookseller specializing in books on food and drink. His business, Rabelais: Fine Books on Food & Drink, sells rare books, manuscripts, ephemera, and other materials related to culinary history and culture. Don also performs appraisal and institutional placement services for collections and archives related to food and drink. Don is a past Governor of the ABAA, and is a member of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) and the Ephemera Society of America. He gave the Specialty Dealer Lecture for the 2016 Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar.

Nina Musinsky is the proprietor of Musinsky Rare Books, Inc., founded in 2003, specializing in Western European fifteenth- to early nineteenth-century printed books and manuscripts in the humanities. Nina is a member of the Council of the Bibliographical Society of America, past chair of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the ABAA, and served for five years on the faculty of the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS).

Todd Pattison is the Senior Book Conservator at the Northeast Document Conservation Center, where he performs conservation treatments on a wide range of bound volumes. Before returning to NEDCC he was the Collections Conservator at Harvard College Library. Pattison currently serves on the board of the Ticknor Society and is an active member of the New England chapter of the Guild of Book Workers.

David Whitesell is Curator in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia, before which he was Curator of Books at the American Antiquarian Society, a rare book cataloger at the Houghton Library, Harvard University, and in the antiquarian book trade.