BPG Greek-Style Bindings

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Book and Paper Group Wiki > Book Conservation Wiki > Greek-Style Bindings

This page covers the structure and conservation of Greek-style bindings. See also: Book Boards, Endbands, and Fastenings and Furniture. For information on other binding traditions, see Bookbinding Traditions by Region or Culture.

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Copyright 2024. The AIC Wiki is a publication of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC). It is published as a convenience for the members of AIC. Publication does not endorse nor recommend any treatments, methods, or techniques described herein. Information on researching with and citing the wiki can be found on the Reference and Bibliography Protocols page.

Cite this page:

American Institute for Conservation (AIC). "BPG Greek-Style Bindings." AIC Wiki. May 21, 2024. https://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/BPG_Greek-Style_Bindings.

Terminology[edit | edit source]

Historical terminology[edit | edit source]

'Byzantine' bindings[edit | edit source]

Greek-style bindings are often referred to as 'Byzantine bindings' in the predominant literature. The term ‘Byzantine’ is omitted from this identifier in the LoB thesaurus (please see below) due to issues of temporality, and it is now the general consensus that conflating binding type and time period can be limiting, as: “the stylistic and structural features shared by such bindings may be found outside the strict geographical and temporal limits of the Byzantine Empire” (LoB, 2021).

The Language of Bindings Thesaurus (LoB) definitions[edit | edit source]

['Genuine Greek-style' bindings][edit | edit source]

“Bindings made in the tradition that was practised in the territories and period of the later Byzantine empire (A.D. ca 1000-1453) and that are also, for that reason, often referred to as Byzantine bindings, but the stylistic and structural features shared by such bindings may be found outside the strict geographical and temporal limits of the Byzantine empire. The term Greek-style binding usefully avoids the limitations of using the word Byzantine. The Italian term alla greca and the French à la grecque are used to describe bindings made in the Greek style in those two countries. The distinctive features shared by such bindings made in the genuine Greek manner must include unsupported sewing structures (which may be sewn in two sequences) and consequently smooth spines which are often heavily rounded, a sewn board attachment, projecting endbands sewn to the edges of the boards and bookblocks cut to the same size as the boards. Greek-style bindings will often also have grooves cut into the edges of the boards and fastenings in the form of double or triple interlaced straps laced through one board which are attached to ring clasps with which fit over edge pins in the edges of the other board."

['Hybrid Greek-style' bindings][edit | edit source]

“Imitations of Greek-style bindings made outside Greece which adopt only the external features of Greek-style bindings, and often retain supported sewing."

Suggested additions to LoB Thesaurus[edit | edit source]

'Genuine Eastern Greek-style' bindings versus 'Genuine Western Greek-style' bindings[edit | edit source]

Characteristics[edit | edit source]

Textblock[edit | edit source]

Boards and Board Attachment[edit | edit source]

Sewing[edit | edit source]

Endbands[edit | edit source]

Covering[edit | edit source]

Decoration, Furniture, Page-markers[edit | edit source]

History and Evolution[edit | edit source]

Bookbinding and the Byzantine Empire[edit | edit source]

The genuine Greek-style binding is the product of a complex, geographically wide-ranging culture. This binding tradition is typically associated with the rise of the Byzantine Empire, which saw a shift in power from the Latin West towards the Greek East as Constantinople or ‘Byzantium’ became the new geographical and political centre of the Roman Empire (fifth century AD until its fall in 1453). With territories won and lost through a series of crusade campaigns, the influence of the Byzantine Empire and with it, Christianity (the state religion), was felt throughout the Eastern world (Treadgold, 1997). Greece formed part of a culture that was as far reaching as North Africa, Georgia, Armenia, Asia Minor, the Balkans and parts of Russia.

Whilst ancient Greece is known for being the cradle of Western civilization, during the Byzantine era, Greece was deeply rooted in the Eastern tradition and was influenced by its neighbours in the Eastern Mediterranean basin. Although the genuine Greek binding style continued to develop once the Roman Empire was defeated by the Ottomans, it is not until the seventeenth century that resulting geographical shifts, such as the notable exodus of Greeks into Western Europe, begins to be reflected in the technical shifts that can be witnessed within the Greek binding practice (Boudalis, 2016). It is from this specific context, before the influence of Western binding practices upon the Greek binding tradition, that the genuine Greek-style of binding must be considered.

Surveys, Research, and Analysis[edit | edit source]

Digital Collections and Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Polonsky Foundation Digitisation Project: A collaboration between the Bodleian Libraries and Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana - digitised Greek Manuscripts at the Bodleian and the Vatican Library.

The National Library of Greece (NLG): Digital Collection Platform - Greek Manuscripts at the NLG.

Bard Graduate Center: The Codex and Craft in Late Antiquity (2018) - link to interactive exhibition website.

Conservation[edit | edit source]

Treatment Approaches[edit | edit source]

Ethical Considerations[edit | edit source]

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

Boudalis, Georgios. 2004? "Surveying bindings of the late 15th-early 18th century in the libraries of the Iviron monastery / Mount Athos and the St. Catherine’s monastery / Sinai." Unpublished (?), possibly part of the authors PhD thesis. Accessed online through Academia.edu June 12, 2017.

From the introduction: "The following paper concerns the methodological approach used for the survey of post-Byzantine binding structures."

Boudalis, G. .2004. ‘Islamic bookbinding and its influence in Greek post-Byzantine bindings’, Vivlioamphiastis, 2, The Hellenic Society for Bookbinding (ELEVIV): Athens, pp. 55-118.

Boudalis, G., 2004. The Evolution of a Craft: Post-Byzantine bookbinding between the late fifteenth and the early eighteenth century form the libraries of the Iviron Monastery in Mount Athos/Greece and the St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai/Egypt, Vols 1-3. PhD Thesis, Camberwell College of Arts, University of London.

Boudalis, G. (2005) ‘For the binding: a document for the process of bookbinding from the second half of the 18th century’ [title transl. from Greek], National Hellenic Research Foundation, Athens, 13-16 October, 2005.

Boudalis, G. 2007. ‘Endbands in Greek-style bindings’, The Paper Conservator, 31:1, pp. 29-49.

Boudalis, Georgios. 2010. "Preserving the book as artefact: Conservation as the ideal occasion in which books are both repaired and structurally understood." In Choices In Conservation Practice Versus Research." Graphic Documents Working Group – Interim Meeting ICOM-CC. Accessed online though Academia.edu June 12, 2017.

The author states in this conclusions that "book conservation cannot be regarded merely as an occasion for repairing a book but also as a rare instance in which the inner, often hidden, structure of the book can be glimpsed and recorded. Such documentation not only improves and enriches our knowledge of the evolution of book structures but also allows for a more sympathetic conservation in which materials and techniques used could be inspired by or even copy old techniques, originally found on the same books due to be repaired."

Boudalis, Georgios. 2012. "The conservation of an early sixteenth-century bound Greek manuscript: An insight into Byzantine bookbinding through conservation." In Care and conservation of manuscripts 13. Proceedings of the thirteenth international seminar held at the University of Copenhagen 13th–15th April 2011. Accessed online though Academia.edu June 12, 2017.

From the introduction: "This paper presents the conservation of a bound paper codex from the collection of the Aristotle University Library in Thessaloniki and the insights into hitherto unrecorded technical features that were gained through this process."

Boudalis, Georgios. 2016. "The Transition from Byzantine to post-Byzantine Bookbindings: A Statistical Analysis of Some Crucial Changes." Book and Paper Conservation 2: 12-29. Accessed online through Academia.edu April 15, 2020.

Boudalis, G. 2016. ‘Twined Endbands in the Bookbinding Traditions of the Eastern Mediterranean’, in Boudalis, G., Ciechanska, M., Engel, P. et. al. (eds) Historical Book Binding Techniques in Conservation, Horn: Verlag Berger, pp. 135-152.

Canart, P., Grosdidier de Matons, D. and Hoffmann, Ph. 1991. 'L'analyse technique des reliures byzantines et la determination de leur origine geographique (Constantinople, Crete, Chypre, Grece)’, in Cavallo, Guglielmo, Gregorio, Giuseppe di and Maniaci, Marilena (eds.) Scritture, libri e testi nelle aree provinciali di Bisanzio (Atti del seminario di Erice 18-25 settembre 1988). Spoleto: Centro italiano di studi sull'alto medioevo, pp. 751-768.

The Codex and Crafts in Late Antiquity. 2018. Bard Graduate Center. Accessed May 19, 2020.https://exhibitions.bgc.bard.edu/craftandcodex

Federici, C. and Houlis, K. 1988. Legature Bizantine Vaticane. Roma: Fratelli Palombi Editori, pp. 3-23.

Honey, A. and Pickwoad, N. 2010. Using original techniques to conserve a twelfth-century illuminated manuscript and its sixteenth century Greek-style binding at the monastery of St Catherine, Sinai, Studies in Conservation, 55, pp. 56-61.

Honey, A. and Velios, A. 2009. ‘The historic repair and reuse of Byzantine wooden bookboards in the manuscript collection of the monastery of St Catherine, Sinai’, in Ambers, J. et. al. (eds.) Holding it all together: ancient and modern approaches to joining, repair and consolidation, London: Archetype Publications in association with the British Museum, pp. 68-77.

Houlis, K. 1993. 'A Research on Structural Elements of Byzantine Bookbindings' in Maniaci, Marilena and Munafo, Paola F. (eds), Ancient and Medieval Book Materials and Techniques (Erice, 18-25 septembre 1992), vol. 2, Studi e Testi 358, Citta del Vaticano: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, pp. 239-68.

Mokretsova, I. .1994. ‘Principles of Conservation of Byzantine Bindings’, Restaurator, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 142-72.

Mokretsova, I. P. 2003. Materials and Techniques of Byzantine Manuscripts. Moscow: Indrik.

Petherbridge, G. 1986. ‘Conservation and codicology. A regional study. The investigation and documentation of the physical aspects of Greek manuscripts, New directions in paper conservation’, 10th Anniversary Conference of the Institute of Paper Conservation, Oxford, 14-18 April, 1986. Oxford: Institute of Paper Conservation.

Petherbridge, G. 1991. 'Sewing Structures and Materials: A Study in the Examination and Documentation of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Bookbindings' in Harlfinger, Dieter, Prato, Giancarlo (eds.) Paleografia e codicologia greca. Aui del II Colloquio internazionale (Berlino Wolfenbuttel 17-21 ottobre 1983). Alessandria: Edizioni dell'Orso, vol. 1, pp. 363-408, vol. 2, pp. 201-209.

Pickwoad, N. with notes on decoration by Gullick, M. 2004. Assessment Manual: A guide to the survey forms to be used in St Catherine’s Monastery, April 2004, St. Catherine’s Monastery.

Pickwoad, N. 2004a. The condition survey of the manuscripts in the monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai, in The Paper Conservator, 28:1, pp. 33-61, DOI: 10.1080/03094227.2004.9638640.

Pickwoad, N. & Velios, A. 2005. Current use and future development of the database of the St. Catherine's Library Conservation Project, The Paper Conservator, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 39-53.

Pickwoad, N. & Velios, A. 2006. Conservation and Continuity: Preserving the library of the Monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai, Studies in Conservation, vol. 51, no. 2, pp. 293-297.

Regemorter, van B. 1954. 'La reliure des manuscrits grecs', Scriptorium, 8, pp. 3-23.

Regemorter, van B. 1967. ‘La reliure Byzantine’, Revue Belge d’Archéologie et d’Histoire de l’Art, 36, pp. 99-162, pp. 117-118.

Sarris, N., 2010. Classification of finishing tools in Greek bookbinding: Establishing links form the Library of St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, Egypt. Vols. 1-3. PhD Thesis, Camberwell College of Arts, University of London.

Szirmai, J. A. 1999. The archaeology of medieval bookbinding. London: Routledge, pp. 62-92.

Treadgold, W. 1997. History of Byzantine State and Society. Stanford: University Press.

Velios, A. and Pickwoad, N. 2005. ‘The Database of the St Catherine’s Library Conservation Project in Sinai, Egypt’, Archiving Conference, Archiving 2005 Program and Proceedings, Washington, 26-29 April, 2005. Virginia: Society for Imaging Science and Technology, pp. 73-78 (6).                                       

History of This Page[edit | edit source]

This page was created in February 2021 from content previously found on the Bookbinding Traditions by Region or Culture page under the heading "Byzantine/Medieval Bookbinding".

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