Maria Fredericks, book conservator at the Morgan Library and Museum taught the PBI class on Italian Paper Bindings from 1500-1800. Maria has done extensive research in this area, and has looked at these bindings in collections in the US, UK, and Italy. In this class we looked at a range of covering methodologies, variations in endsheet structures and sewing patterns via the samples Maria brought, her slides, and the numerous binding models that she had made during her investigation of this genre.
During this time period books had to get from printers to the binders in larger and larger editions and out to the booksellers in shorter and shorter time frames. The need to produce books faster to meet the increased demand resulted in an evolution from elaborate binding structures to the simpler, faster sewing and bindings that were the focus of our class.
Stacks of books created by the participants in this class.
Photo by Fran Kovac.
The earliest historic examples of sewing we made were long-stitched through the thick paper (cartonnage) covers. Our models of the 17th C. styles were sewn all-along on alum-tawed thongs – a supported sewing. Models from the early 18th C. show a variety of abbreviated sewing patterns. No supports were used. Skipping sewing stations or jumping from one signature to the next without using kettle stitches seemed sacrilegious, but many examples of these bindings survive today, so they must be fairly strong. The sewing patterns were fun to learn and really did speed up production. In the class most of us completed at least five different books, and some completed many more.
Our cases were made of very heavy papers; we used the wonderful Iowa Case Paper from the University of Iowa’s Center for the Book and an exquisite piece of Moulin du Verger, a case paper developed to replicate the historic Italian case papers. We also created stiffer laminated covers by layering on slightly thinner Khadi paper. Sometimes the endpapers were pasted to the covers—attaching the textblock to the case – other times we laced on the cases with the alum-tawed thongs we had sewn onto – a reference to the limp vellum binding style that had been popular but was more expensive for the 16th C. bookbinder to make.
Paper case, laced on. Photo by Fran Kovac.
For the laced-on cases we also created small tackets of either vellum or thin strips of the case paper twisted into cords and threaded through the covers. These simple tackets added strength to the case and its attachment to the textblock.
All the while we learned the different binding and sewing structures we also made paste papers using cooked flour colored with watercolors and stamped onto thin text weight Barcham Green papers with beautifully carved blocks. These paste papers became simple wrappers around the thick paper covers (also secured with tackets), adding color and lovely historically reminiscent pattern to the later models we had created.
Ann's Paste Papers. Photo by Fran Kovac.
Maria was a great teacher. She provided extensive information discussing Italian paper bindings and meticulous drawings of the abbreviated sewing variations she had encountered in her research. She kept us historically accurate, discussed conservation concerns, and at the same time allowed us freedom to be creative with our models. It was another wonderful and memorable PBI class.
There are a few more pictures of the books made in this class in my Flickr pool.