Modeling History: Making a Stiff-Board Parchment Binding with a Slotted Spine

This post comes from the 2012 Gladys Brooks conservation intern, Morgan Adams. Morgan is currently interning in the Thaw Conservation Center at the Morgan Library & Museum

As the 2012 Gladys Brooks intern I had the pleasure of working with Senior Book Conservator Anne Hillam on a model of a stiff-boards parchment binding with a slotted spine, a style seen commonly in Italian bindings of the 16th-17th centuries.

An example of a stiff-boards parchment binding with a slotted spine from the NYAM collection: Trincavello, De differentiis febrium, Venice, 1585. Left: Back cover and spine. Right: Front cover.

An example of a stiff-boards parchment binding with a slotted spine from the NYAM collection: Trincavello, De differentiis febrium, Venice, 1585. Left: Back cover and spine. Right: Front cover.

A unique feature of this binding is the juxtaposition of the parchment and alum-tawed skin used to cover the book’s spine. Slots cut in the parchment across the spine reveal the alum-tawed skin patches covering the sewing supports. It is a combination with structural as well aesthetic advantages: The alum-tawed skin provides the flexibility necessary to conform to the raised sewing supports, while the parchment provides a more durable surface to protect the bulk of the spine.

Trincavello (1585): Detail of spine showing the alum-tawed skin patch adhered over sewing support. The original color of the patch can be seen where the parchment is split along the shoulder of the spine.

Trincavello (1585): Detail of spine showing the alum-tawed skin patch adhered over sewing support. The original color of the patch can be seen where the parchment is split along the shoulder of the spine.

To prepare for this binding, we made detailed examinations of six books printed in Venice between 1508 and 1585 in the NYAM special collections. In conjunction with Sylvia Pugliese’s study of this binding style at the National Library Marciana in Venice, we selected material and structural features that exemplified the binding style. These features are highlighted in the images below, which show the steps of the binding process and the finished model.

The text block is sewn on three laminated alum-tawed supports.

The text block is sewn on three laminated alum-tawed supports.

Left: The text block is rounded and backed and the spine is lined with parchment. Endbands are sewn through the spine lining on twisted alum-tawed skin supports.

Left: The text block is rounded and backed and the spine is lined with parchment. Endbands are sewn through the spine lining on twisted alum-tawed skin supports. Right: Galen, Omnia quae extant in Latinum sermonem convsera, Venice, 1556, detail of the spine showing an endband, parchment spine lining, and one sewing station.

Left: Endbands seen from above. Right: Galen (1556) detail of the front bead endband sewn in red and white thread.

Left: Endbands seen from above. Right: Galen (1556) detail of the front bead endband sewn in red and white thread.

Left: The sewing supports are laced into the boards and then covered in alum-tawed skin patches. The endband cores are also laced into the boards. Right: Trincavello (1585), detail showing the "arrow-point" shaping of the alum-tawed skin patch underneath the parchment and the endband core that has been laced through the board and trimmed off flush with the board.

Left: The sewing supports are laced into the boards and then covered in alum-tawed skin patches. The endband cores are also laced into the boards. Right: Trincavello (1585), detail showing the “arrow-point” shaping of the alum-tawed skin patch underneath the parchment and the endband core that has been laced through the board and trimmed off flush with the board.

A template is prepared for cutting the slots in the parchment. The binding is now ready to be covered.

A template is prepared for cutting the slots in the parchment. The binding is now ready to be covered.

After the parchment cover is adhered, ties are laced through the boards at the fore-edge, head and tail. The parchment spine linings are adhered to the interior face of the board and the endsheet is pasted down.

After the parchment cover is adhered, ties are laced through the boards at the fore-edge, head and tail. The parchment spine linings are adhered to the interior face of the board and the endsheet is pasted down.

Trincavello (1585), The surface of the pastedown reveals the ends of ties formerly  laced through the board.

Trincavello (1585), The surface of the pastedown reveals the ends of ties formerly laced through the board.

Finished model, complete with ties on fore-edge, head, and tail.

Finished model, complete with ties on fore-edge, head, and tail.

[1] Sylvia Pugliese, “Stiff-Board Vellum Binding with Slotted Spine: Survey of a Historical Bookbinding Structure,” in Papier Restaurierung – Mitteilungen der IADA, Vol. 2 (2001), Suppl., S. 93-101.

5 thoughts on “Modeling History: Making a Stiff-Board Parchment Binding with a Slotted Spine

  1. Pingback: Modeling History: Making a Stiff-Board Parchment Binding with a Slotted Spine | jamesgray2

  2. Pingback: “To conserve or not to conserve, that is the question” | medievalbooks

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