BPG Parchment Bookbinding

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See also: BPG Parchment.

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American Institute for Conservation (AIC). "BPG Parchment Bookbinding." AIC Wiki. April 21, 2024. https://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/BPG_Parchment_Bookbinding.

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Davidsz. de Heem. Still life with books and a violin, 1628. A variety of parchment covered books that were heavily used are featured.

Parchment has long been incorporated into various aspects of bookbinding. Its use as a covering material can be found in numerous styles from various locations and across time. This page largely focuses on parchment as a covering material for books produced in Europe or European colonies, as well as appropriate conservation treatment techniques for such objects. The word parchment as a catch-all term to include that made from calf, goat, and sheep is used throughout this page unless directly quoting a source that uses the word vellum.

Historical Context of Parchment Bindings[edit | edit source]

Parchment bindings have appeared in many collections and contexts throughout Europe over many centuries and in many formats. As such, the start of the use of parchment as a book covering material likely cannot be assigned to a single place and time. Some of the earliest known European parchment bindings are blank books: an English limp parchment notebook with primary tackets used from 1277 in King Edward I's wardrobe (Bearman 2016), and an Italian limp parchment with leather overbands binding used from 1310 by the Frescobaldi merchant-banking company (Bearman 2018). After the advent of the European printing press, some limp parchment styles were commonly used by book sellers as "publishers bindings" as the bindings were less expensive and less time-consuming to produce than in-boards bindings but would still protect the text (Pickwoad 1995). Parchment bindings are frequently found in the libraries of scholars and other collectors (Miller 2018; Pickwoad 1995). Several parchment binding styles were even in use in European colonies in North America (Leonard 1942; Romero 2013; Cummins 2014).

Limp structures were long thought to be merely temporary covers used by book sellers before being rebound into something more substantial at the cost of their owners. However, the survival of many parchment bindings on books both within collections and on lone volumes suggests otherwise. While complex socioeconomic factors influenced both the use and survival of these structures, they should not be automatically assumed to be temporary (Pickwoad 1994). Many parchment bindings have features that hint at some amount of care being taken in their construction and invalidate the assumption of non-permanence, such as titling and decoration including pen drawing and gold tooling. Frequently, parchment manuscript waste was washed or scraped clean of writing before being used as covering material. In some stiff board bindings, manuscript waste was used as covering material and then painted over to hide the writing (Delbey et al. 2019). These aesthetic steps point toward bindings with intended longevity.

There are several benefits to using parchment as a covering material, which have been described by Pickwoad (2000b) and Geraty (2019): parchment is easy to mold and manipulate when it is damp and soft; it retains its shape when dried under tension; and it is durable and resistant to wear. After the 1966 Florence flood, Clarkson (1975) observed that limp parchment bindings that had been damaged and distorted by flood waters did not transfer the damage to the bookblocks within (see an example). Since then, the limp structure has been adopted as a type of conservation binding.

Parchment bindings can be loosely divided into the categories of stiff and limp depending on whether the parchment that is covering the book has a support (e.g. a board) underneath. "In reality, however, these structures exist on a continuum, the full breadth of which cannot be addressed adequately by the limp/stiff dichotomy," (Albritton & Amato 2016, 4). There are differences in opinion in how to describe various styles of parchment bindings. Albritton and Amato (2016) describe a limp binding or limp covers as having no underlying board, semi-limp as having a thin, flexible board underneath the covering material, and stiff-board bindings as having rigid boards that are fully adhered, drummed-on, or loose under the parchment. In Roberts and Etherington, limp binding is a broad term for, "A book which does not have stiff boards but instead has flexible cloth, leather, vellum, or paper sides, which may or may not be lined." Ligatus contains the term limp covers but prefers limp to be paired with the specific term for type of covering, e.g. limp stitched or limp laced-case. Finally, some conservators base the classification on whether or not the covering material is adhered to the board. If there is no adhesive connection, then it is a limp binding; if there is an adhesive connection, it is a stiff board binding [citation needed].

Finally, parchment was used within bindings as structural components throughout the medieval and early printing eras (Geraty 2019, 9; Pickwoad 2000a). This page will briefly address some situations where treatment or preservation of such components may be required.

Digital Databases That Include Parchment Bindings[edit | edit source]

Institutions


Online repositories


Digital Exhibits

Parchment Bookbinding Structures[edit | edit source]

Stiff-Board Parchment Bindings[edit | edit source]

As their name suggests, stiff-board parchment bindings have stiff supports (as opposed to limp supports) under the covering vellum. Geraty (2019, 135) describes challenges to using parchment in stiff board bindings but also potential remedies:

  • changes to the planarity of parchment-covered boards is difficult to mitigate over the life of the book
  • parchment is usually lined with paper before covering. This reduces translucency and "stabilizes" the parchment, making it easier to work with
  • laminating paper was adhered with paste but not allowed to dry completely before covering. residual moisture helped with cutting and working the joints and turn ins.
  • cockling usually results from unrestrained drying


Vodopivec 2009.

Stiff-board parchment bindings were not common on English early printed books. "In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, however, vellum was certainly used extensively as a covering for the boards of ledgers. It was used to a limited extent by fine binders at the end of the eighteenth century and during the nineteenth... Early in the nineteenth century the full-vellum covering of ledgers was done while the vellum was dry." (Middleton and Nixon 1978, 143)

Parchment Laced-Case Binding[edit | edit source]

Also referred to as a Dutch vellum binding

Cowie's Bookbinder's Manual directs the binder to line the parchment with cartridge or strong white paper and dry between boards. "This method must have been used earlier on printed books also, both continental and English, for one usually finds no linings on the inside of the boards other than the pastedown of the endpaper." (Middleton & Nixon 1978, 144)

Blog posts and instructions

Geraty 2014?

Historic manuals (cited in Geraty 2019) that describe parchment bindings in English include: Dirck de Bray, 1658; Jean-Vincent Capronnier de Graffencourt, 1763; Rene Martin Dudin, 1772; Christoph Ernst Prediger, 1741-1753; Anselme Faust, 1612.

"An inboard binding with a laced cover" by Nicholas Pickwoad (2015)

Stiff-Board Parchment Binding with Slotted Spine[edit | edit source]

Pugliese (2001, 94) describes this variant of the stiff-board binding: "The textblock is sewn on raised supports and the slips are then laced through the boards as for other in boards bindings. The spine is slightly rounded and lined, accurate endbands are sewn on the head and tail, and then, to keep the cover close to the spine, slots are cut in the vellum, a sort of buttonhole exactly fitting the sewing supports protruding on the spine. In fact the sewing supports have been previously covered with patches of alum-tawed skin ending on the outer side of the boards. This protects the sewing thread and highlights the sequence of bands on the spine." The structure is still flexible despite being a tightback (Clarkson 1999). The structure is typically sewn all-along, indicating a higher quality of binding. Manuscript waste could be used as the covering material. Ties may have been added, but edge coloring or other decoration is uncommon. (Pugliese 2001).

This structure seems to be exclusively Italian and was in use from the beginning of the 16th until the early 17th centuries. Pugliese (2001, 95) [Longevity]

Blog posts and instructions

Clarkson (1999) discusses how he has modified the structure for use as a conservation binding.

"Modeling History: Making a Stiff-Board Parchment Binding with a Slotted Spine" by Morgan Adams (2013)

"TO CONSERVE OR NOT TO CONSERVE, THAT IS THE QUESTION" by Karin Scheper (2015)

Semi-Limp Parchment Bindings[edit | edit source]

A category that exists between stiff board and limp parchment bindings is "semi-limp". This phrase can describe an array of binding structures with varying degrees of support from stiffening materials beneath the covering parchment. Albritton and Amato (2016) conducted a study of 105 "semi-limp" parchment bindings in the collections of the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM). The bindings dated from about 1500-1800, though the collection skewed more to 1660-1760. Such bindings came about with the rising popularity of printed books and were frequently used by printers on smaller, octavo-sized books as a cheap "retail binding". (See also: Pickwoad 1994; Pickwoad 1995; Martin 1993)

Albritton and Amato describe two types of semi-limp bindings: a wrapped-board binding and a floating-boards binding. A wrapped-board binding "appears, from all available evidence, to have arisen at a very specific place and time - France in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries - amidst a very specific confluence of geographic, political, economic, and social circumstances." (Albritton and Amato 2016, 4) Pickwoad (??) confirms this. The floating-board bindings they observed were more likely to be Italian (Albritton and Amato 2016). Pickwoad (1995, 225) posits that the linings on semi-limp bindings allowed for cheaper, flimsier, or flawed parchment to be used on these bindings.

Features of wrapped-board bindings and floating-board bindings observed in a survey of 105 semi-limp bindings by Albritton and Amato (2016).
Wrapped-board binding features Shared features Floating-board binding features
Flexible board under the covering material, wrapping around the spine --- Two boards held into the covering material via the turn ins, stopping at the shoulder
Reverse endcaps --- Unshaped endcaps
--- Typically no fore edge yap or ties ---
Full spine lining, often of printers' waste --- Paneled, plain paper spine linings
Most likely sewn in a two-on pattern --- Likely sewn two-on or all-along (in older or larger books)
Loose supports, sometimes adhered to pastedown or stiffener Sewn on single, raised vegetable-fiber cords that are not laced through the outer parchment cover Likely to have sewing supports trimmed flush to the shoulder
--- Most have simple worked front-bead endbands in two colors. Endband cores are laced through the outer covers at the joint. ---
Most common endleaf is a single fold hooked towards the board End leaves and pastedowns of plain, undecorated paper More diversity in endleaf styles
--- Trimmed, undecorated edges on most ---

Lined Parchment Bindings[edit | edit source]

In Nicholas Pickwoad's survey of bindings in the Ramey collection, he described a structure frequently observed in the collection that he called the "cover lining binding":

Pickwoad (1995, 228): "This new structure, which appears on a small group of imprints around 1560 but not in larger numbers until the early 1580s (Graph 4) - making it likely that the first group comprises old texts bound up later - is distinguished by having a double cover. First a lining, usually of cartonnage or laminated paper, is wrapped around the sewn textblock, and the main sewing support slips are laced through it. The parchment cover is then folded around the lining, and the endband slips are laced through both, a feature which makes them easily recognisable as the main sewing support slips do not appear on the outside of the binding.... It appears to be an especially French structure, and a date for its introduction in the late 1570s accords with example in other collections. The name often used to describe the structure is 'semi-limp' parchment, but this can be confused with bindings which have thin, separate, flexible boards inserted into them, and thus form an entirely different structure. In the absence of any historical name, it is most clearly referred to as a limp parchment binding with a cover lining."

"Manuscript leaves were often rather thin for making the covers of any but the smallest format books, and many German binders reinforced the parchment covers with paper linings which were pasted to the inside of the cover before it was folded to fit the book. The linings might be of new, clean paper, but more often were of printed or manuscript waste. Depending on the size of the book and the thickness of the parchment, one, two, or even three laminations might be used, and it is characteristic of this usage that the linings were cut to the same size as the parchment cover before the turn-ins were folded, resulting in a double thickness or lining (and therefore extra strength and stiffness) around the edge of the folded cover. The sewing support slips, and endband slips if there were any, were then laced through both the cover and the linings, a process that further distinguishes them from a different type of lining used by French binders from the last quarter of the sixteenth to the middle of the eighteenth century" (Pickwoad 2000 "Fragments", 6).

Limp Parchment Bindings[edit | edit source]

See Scholla 2008; Albritton and Amato (2016); Pickwoad 2019; Gnirrep and Szirmai 1989; Fitzsimons 1986.

"Limp vellum bindings came into their own at the time of the first printed pocket editions, for which they were so admirably suited," Clarkson (1975 7/15/3-3). Clarkson recognized the value of this structure after working in the recovery efforts after the Florence Flood of 1966, where he observed that printed textblocks bound in limp parchment covers could be relatively easily recovered.

Pickwoad (1995, 209, footnote 2) describes limp bindings as, "...books whose covering material, typically parchment but also paper and occasionally leather, is not wrapped around stiff boards, but forms the sole component of the cover. Such covers, which can be prepared off the book, are usually secured to the sewn textblock by the sewing support and/or the endband slips at the final stage of the binding process."

Limp parchment bindings were often sewn as longstitch bindings, described by Pickwoad (1995, 209, footnote 3): "the book is sewn through both the gatherings and the covering material (Typically parchment or thick paper) at the same time, and results in lengths of thread showing in one or more rows across the spine. It was a rapid and economical way to hold books together, and was often used for temporary, retail bindings and cheaper blank books from the late fifteenth century onwards."

"There was an alternative technique designed to reinforce covers made from thin parchment (and therefore especially covers cut from manuscript leaves) in which the unlined cover was made with turn-ins that were pasted before they were folded in, which resulted in an extra-stiff double thickness of parchment around the edges of the cover. Of the sixty-seven examples of this technique that I have seen, fifty-five were bound in Germany and six in the Low Countries, and all the examples that have covers made from manuscript waste are German. It would appear, therefore, that this technique is likely to be characteristic of the work of German-speaking binders." (Pickwoad 2000 "Tacketed", 7)

"Another structural type that commonly makes use of manuscript waste as a wrapper material- because the covers were often intended to be temporary-is the tacketed binding, where the cover is attached to the sewn text block, not by lacing the sewing support slips through the cover as was more common (in surviving examples at least), but by threading a tacket, a length of parchment, leather, tawed skin, or thread, through the cover and attaching it to the sewing supports (fig. 6). 16 It is a binding type that was borrowed from the stationery binding tradition but for some reason was almost exclusively restricted to Germany, the Low Countries, and Italy. Although examples are found from the last quarter of the fifteenth century, surviving examples do not become common until the second decade of the following century, peak in the 1530s, and slowly fall out of favor over the next forty to fifty years. The use of manuscript waste on these bindings does not appear to have been common before the 152os, but this may be as much a reflection of poorer survival rates among earlier examples as evidence of a historical pattern. It is, however, quite clear that the use of manuscript waste as a cover material is an indication of an even lower than normal economic status within the canon of tacketed bindings.

"In the majority of the German examples, the binders also used parchment as the tacketing material, and in several cases the parchment was obtained for this purpose by cutting narrow strips off the piece selected to make the cover." (Pickwoad 2000 "Tacketed", 7-8)

Pickwoad (1995, 226) also observed that limp parchment book covers were occasionally reused. The covers were often turned inside out so that the flesh side was on the exterior, referred to as "reverse skin". This, according to Pickwoad, is "an Italian habit."

Pugliese (2019) describes a 16th-century example from Padua, Italy, of a limp parchment binding with cartonnage end leaves that have been attached to the parchment cover via the sewing support slips at the joint and fore edge ties. This non-adhesive structure would stay intact even if some components started to fail due to the additional attachment of the cartonnage.

Web Exhibits

Limp Bindings: The Ageless Book at Michigan State University Library

"Traveling Scriptorium, Page 36: Traveling Scriptorium.

Parchment with Leather Overbands[edit | edit source]

While this binding style is technically a subclass of stationery binding, it is extremely distinctive. It is a non-adhesive cover of parchment (or leather, as in the case of "the Dartmouth Brut" (Howe 2015)), often having a fore-edge flap, with leather overbands that are pierced with lacings (usually alum tawed) to form a decorative pattern. The cover is held to the bookblock with tackets.

The earliest known leather overbands binding was made in Florence in 1310, but the well-developed nature of the extant example indicates that this style was most likely in use before that date. This style of book was used by 14th century merchants and bureaucrats alike, and spread throughout Europe as business grew (Bearman 2018). Beaty (2020) provides an excellent description of common features seen in a small collection of Florentine stationery bindings at Harvard. Beaty and Piotrowski (2021) discuss the conservation of two collections of Italian stationery bindings at Harvard. Chela Metzger (2007) gave a talk at Guild of Book Workers about this style of binding.

Web Exhibits

Taking Account: The Italian stationery binding at Kansas University Libraries

Stationery Bindings[edit | edit source]

Stationery bindings are most simply defined as "blank books bound for the purpose of writing in them," [[#refBearman2018|(Bearman 2018, 197). They were often used as ledgers and account books. No one particular sewing structure or covering style has dominated, and they are found in limp, semi-limp, or stiff-board parchment bindings. Bearman (2018, 197) lists the various ways they have been referred to in literature, including: blank-book binding, account-book binding, journal or ledger binding, vellum binding, spring back binding, wallet binding, portfolio binding, and, most commonly, stationery binding. "In eighteenth-century England, the binders who made these books were known as 'vellum binders', as parchment was the predominant covering material used on these books at that time." (Ligatus, "stationery bindings")

Other "Blank Book" Structures[edit | edit source]

Limp wrapper: Ryley 2019.

Stitched Bindings[edit | edit source]

Stitched bindings, or stab-sewn bindings, were in use before the advent of printing in Europe. (Gillespie 2014, 92) They were intended to be inexpensive, and perhaps temporary. Pickwoad (2000 "Fragments", 12) asserts that, "In England the use of medieval manuscript waste as a covering material is much more likely to be found on stitched books than on sewn books-that is, on books held together by stabbing thread or thongs through the inner margins of the entire text block of a book, the very cheapest form of binding used by the book trade." Printers and booksellers frequently sewed books into this structure for sale to the public, avoiding the need to engage the services of binders. The practice was apparently common enough by 1586 that in London, several stationers asked the Lord Mayor to regulate the practice of stitched bindings in order to protect the binders they associated with (Gillespie 2014, 92).

Longstitch Bindings[edit | edit source]

"Manuscript waste is also associated with less expensive structures such as longstitch and stitched books, many of which were intended to be either temporary or so cheap as to be expendable." (Pickwoad 2000 "Fragments", 4)

An example of a longstitch binding bound in manuscript waste can be seen here.

This style of sewing is also seen with paper and canvas covers.

Tacketed Bindings[edit | edit source]

Pickwoad (2000 "Tacketed") describes two types of tackets:

  • primary tackets: tackets are laced through the holes in the spine folds to hold together several bifolia. They may also be used to simultaneously hold a covering to the bookblock, but they are defined by their primary function as a page fastener. "Quire tackets" are an example.
  • secondary tackets: tackets attach a cover to a bookblock that is already fastened together by additional, independent means.


Bindings with secondary tackets are generally from "Germany, the Low Countries, or Italy" according to Pickwoad (2000 "Tacketed", 120), who provides over twenty examples of attachment patterns. Szirmai (1999) also discusses tackets in the chapter on limp bindings in The Archaeology of the Medieval Book.

Bearman (2016) writes about the use of tacketed bindings for parchment notebooks as an administrative tool in 13th-14th century England. Gillespie (2014) writes about tacketed bindings in 15th-16th century England.

Pinkney (2020) describes several tacket styles and making a model in a blog post.

Blank Books[edit | edit source]

See: Common Ground Research Networks. 2011. The Blank History of the Blank Book.

Parchment as Structural Components[edit | edit source]

Parchment has been used (and re-used, in the case of manuscript waste) as several types of binding components, including: pastedowns, spine linings, sewing supports (also covering strips over cord sewing supports), and endband cores. See images in the gallery above for examples.

The use of parchment manuscript fragments in bindings has been addressed by numerous authors (Clarkson 1987; de Hamel 1995; Duqueyroix et al. 2015; Erwin 2016; Fleck and Ward 2004; Icon - The Institute of Conservation 2021; Murray 2019; Pickwoad 2000 "Fragments"; and Sheppard 2000). The conservation, storage, and display of fragments has addressed by Clarkson 1987.

Parchment Knot Bindings[edit | edit source]

In addition to tackets, parchment slips tied into knots have been used to keep the bifolia of pamphlets together (Beckers 2023).

Treatment of Parchment Bindings[edit | edit source]

Though generally very sturdy and long-lasting, parchment book covers are vulnerable to a variety of damages. Some common condition issues occurring on parchment covers include:

  • distortion or shrinkage caused by high relative humidity or direct contact with water
  • split joints, frequently occurring in stiff-board bindings
  • losses to end caps, caused by shelving (tail) or retrieving from a shelf (head)

Repair Material[edit | edit source]

Goldbeater's skin

In Roberts and Etherington, goldbeater’s skin is "the prepared outer coat of the caecum of the ox (or other cattle), which is the blind pouch or sac in which the large intestine begins." It is an excellent repair material for parchment due to its strength, translucency, and proteinaceous nature. Using Goldbeater's skin adds a collagen-based repair material that closely resembles the collagen that has deteriorated along the original parchment joints. It can be difficult to apply Goldbeater's skin as it is highly reactive to moisture (i.e. it becomes tightly curled) and its smooth surface can result in a weak attachment. Laminating goldbeater’s skin to a kozo paper with bovine gelatin can make it slightly stiffer and easier to handle, as well as increase its strength of attachment. A 5 gsm kozo paper or lighter is recommended in order to retain the translucency of the goldbeater’s skin (Wong 2019).

Humidification and Flattening of Parchment Bindings[edit | edit source]

Techniques used in the humidification and flattening of parchment folios can be adapted to parchment book covers.

Joint Repair[edit | edit source]

A split parchment joint repaired by laminated strips of goldbeater's skin and Kozo. Image by Victoria Wong.

"The main problem with vellum bindings relates mostly to the board hinging, with the joints cracked or split at head and tail, or even the whole length of the joint" (Katinka Keus, 2011). This can occur as the parchment becomes brittle or shrinks. As parchment spines are often not adhered to the book block, broken joints leaves the spine areas additionally vulnerable.

Split or splitting parchment joints can be repaired with laminates of goldbeater’s skin and kozo papers. One technique is to apply strips of the goldbeater’s skin laminate in an over-and-under fashion at an angle along the split (see Wong 2019). This method emulates historic sewn repairs of knife-cut parchment without adding holes to the original parchment. By modifying the sewn technique, this application provides the strength and flexibility of the historic repair without puncturing the original parchment. To facilitate adhesion, kozo paper must be applied to alternating sides of the Goldbeater’s skin in order to be applied in an over-and-under fashion. The resulting application provides tensile strength at a point of flexion with minimal visual impact. This technique may be useful for tears in other areas of parchment books, such as along a folio fold.

Another technique is using laminates of Tyvek (R) and long-fibered paper as joint material, as described by Katinka Keus (2011).

Filling Losses[edit | edit source]

Paterson (2018, 462) used a Hollytex and Korean handmade paper (1003) laminate to fill losses in a parchment binding. The paper and the Hollytex were separately toned with Golden fluid acrylics. The layers were adhered with Jade 711 PVAc and dried for 24 hours under weight. The fills were attached with Lascaux 498 HV. Fills were attached to the board under the covering parchment, which was then set back down with Lascaux.

Rita Udina used toned Japanese paper to repair a parchment cover.

Cleaning Parchment Bindings[edit | edit source]

Generally, conservators do not clean parchment book covers. The accumulated grime, stains, accretions, etc. tell a binding's history and can be valuable. Nevertheless, occasionally the urge to clean a dirty binding is indulged. Haljasmäe and Reimo (2014, 340) briefly describe cleaning a parchment-covered Incunable using a 1:1 solution of distilled water and ethanol. Magee (2019, 117) briefly described experimenting with removing surface grime from a parchment binding using high acyl gellan gum to deliver different solutions followed by swabbing the area.

Removing In Situ Parchment Binding Components[edit | edit source]

These days, recycled parchment manuscript waste that remains in situ as a book component is quite rare. Removal of such fragments is not recommended unless its presence impedes necessary treatment. In that case, thorough written and photographic documentation should be carried out.

Parchment folios from medieval books were frequently used as pastedowns in later medieval manuscripts or Incunables. These pastedowns generally have writing on both sides, including the side of the folio adhered to the boards. When removed dry from a board (i.e. with a lifting knife), a common result is "skinning", where the ink and/or the parchment fibers on the surface to remain in the adhesive while the bulk of the folio comes away. Cathie Magee (2019) describes using high acyl gellan gum to remove parchment manuscript waste pastedowns that were adhered to wooden boards. The 1% gel (with 1:1 water and ethanol) was applied to the surface of the parchment and humidified the adhesive through the membrane. Once softened, the parchment could be lifted away with a Delrin spatula.

Storage of Parchment Bindings and Components[edit | edit source]

As with parchment documents, parchment bindings require controlled storage environments with a relative humidity of about 55% and a temperature of about 65 F. Due to the lime content from its manufacture, parchment will "absorb (take up) and adsorb (chemically bond)" with moisture in its environment (Geraty 2019, 128). When this happens, the membrane "usually warps toward the hair side of the animal and that is generally the side that faces out.… The result may be broken end sections (endpapers) and/or split joints in the cover. The parchment may pull back from the edges of the boards causing the turn-ins of the covers to lift and retract, breaking the pastedowns along the edges of the turn-ins (Geraty 2019, 126)."

(Geraty 2019, 131): " Shelving stiff-board parchment bindings is a good way to help control warping due to climate changes in a storage area. Parchment covers can also be restrained by making a clamshell box with a flap built into the fore edge of the small tray. The flap closes from right to left over the book, and the box cover closes from left to right effectively confining the boards. Boxes also create a microclimate that slows the permeation of moisture into its interior and thus into the book."

Parchment bindings should be shielded from UV light when on display (Pugh 2000).

Modern Parchment Bindings[edit | edit source]

A limp vellum binding, laced into the textblock with three alum-tawed thongs and the alum-tawed endband cores. Alum-tawed ties are tied shut at the fore edge. Modern binding on a rebound 16th-17th century textblock. Photo by Melina Avery.

Parchment Conservation Bindings[edit | edit source]

Chris Clarkson (1975) observed that books originally bound in limp parchment covers were more easily restored during the recovery efforts after the 1966 Florence flood. He rebound many early printed books that had been damaged in the flood in this manner. (The 1968 film by Roger Hill, The Restoration of Bindings, depicts this process and can be viewed on YouTube.) Part of the appeal of the structure is that it is a non-adhesive binding. One difference in Clarkson's rebindings is In the lacing of the sewing thongs. "Often the 15th or 16th century binder damped the previously rolled thongs and laced them through slots or bodkin holes in the cover and liner, then unrolled and flattened the end of the thong inside the cover. When dry, the end of such a thong would never pull back through its hole. I cannot justify this method as it makes disassembly more difficult, so I carefully select the right size hole for the particular whittawed thong. If the vellum is of good quality it will not tear, but grip the thong firmly, and the second hole, further in, I make smaller so that a sound anchorage is produced," (Chris Clarkson 1975, 75/15/3-11).

Clarkson (1999) also developed a stiff-board parchment binding with a slotted spine that exposed the sewing supports.

Fitzsimons 1986

Lindsay (1991) in The New Bookbinder describes in detail the process of creating a limp parchment cover and has excellent diagrams. Following her, Espinosa (1993) in the same journal proposes a modification to the usual limp vellum structure that allows for better opening (see similar instructions in Espinosa 1994).

Artists Bindings[edit | edit source]

Limp Bindings from the Vatican Library, edited by Monica Langwe (2013) features several examples of modern parchment bindings by book artists and conservators.

Decoration of Parchment Bindings[edit | edit source]

Health and Safety Notice[edit | edit source]

A variety of substances have been used to decorate parchment book covers, some of which are known to be toxic to humans. Use caution and/or appropriate PPE when handling decorated parchment book covers, especially painted covers, if the materials have not been identified or confirmed to be non-toxic. See the AIC Health & Safety: Pigment Health & Safety Quick Guide and Pigment Toxicity Information chart for more information.

Blind or Gold-Tooled Parchment[edit | edit source]

Parchment can be tooled with gold, but this was not commonly done. "Parchment's hard surface gives it a slippery feel while tooling, though it is no different from tooling leather with the exception of using a slightly cooler tool when using egg glaire, while for shellac size, it does not matter. it takes surface gold well, so designs can be created using just leaf laid onto it with rabbit-skin glue." (Geraty 2019, 129)

Cut Parchment or Pierced Vellum[edit | edit source]

"A style of luxury or deluxe binding where shapes are cut or punched out of the piece of vellum intended for a cover and lined with velvet for a dramatic and beautiful effect. The style is similar to early Coptic bindings that had small shapes punched out of the cover leather that were backed with gold leaf on vellum patches. The style requires that the design in the vellum be punched and the backing added before the covering is attached to the boards/text block." (Miller 2014, 448)

Parchment coverings that were pierced or cut with intricate patterns appear in sixteenth and seventeenth century continental Europe (Middleton & Nixon 1978, 142; see also Nixon & Ehrman 1956). James Reid-Cunningham (Reid-Cunningham 2013) has researched this style, taught workshops on their construction, and his website has several images of historical examples.

Hair Vellum[edit | edit source]

Rarely, parchment notebooks (blank parchment bookblocks) were covered with hair vellum, or "a calf- or doeskin purposely prepared to retain the hair of the animal" (Bearman 2016, 345 n.4). The National Archives of the United Kingdom has two in its collections, one of which is featured in a blog post (Brown 2021). Bearman (2016) writes about both. They were purchased from an English stationer in the late 13th century. The covers were pasted to the spine and outermost leaves.

Dyed or Stained Parchment[edit | edit source]

Stained parchment or [stained vellum bindings "have been colored by the application of a dilute colored liquid, a process that results in a transparent color that penetrates the material, allowing the underlying texture of the skin to be visible" (RBMS). The colorant can be applied overall or as a drip or splatter. Instructions for making "tinted parchment" appear in Cennini.

Early modern manuals describe dyeing skins different colors (Foot 2006, 83):

19th and 20th-century manuals describe parchment dyeing: Hannett 1835;

Green parchment for book covering appears in Europe first in France in 1657, attributed to Pierre Portier, a Paris binder (Pollard 1956, 83). During the 18th century, green parchment was frequently used as a spine covering along with paper sides (usually marbled) on quarter bound books. This style was made popular by London publisher Francis Newbery and is sometimes known as the "vellum manner" (according to contemporary advertisements) or "Newbery manner". Newbery used the style to market books written for the nascent field of children's literature (Nash 2020, 248). (See also Bennett 2004 and Pearson 2005) In the 20th century, Peter Franck (1964, 11) described batik-dyed parchment bindings, created with the use of mordants and wax or shellac by contemporary bookbinder and teacher Johann Rudel.

Julia Miller (2018) features a few examples of parchment covers decorated by staining or marbling, mainly from the collections at the Clements Library at the University of Michigan.

Manuscript Waste or Fragments[edit | edit source]

See also BPG Parchment > Parchment Fragments.

Pieces of manuscript fragments have long been recycled into new coverings or structural components on later books. The use of manuscript waste in bindings was driven by simultaneous supply and demand. "The enormous growth of the use of secondhand parchment in the bindings of printed books is the result of two complementary phenomena: a great increase in the output of books occasioned by the invention of printing, accelerating rapidly in the last decade of the fifteenth century and continuously from that time; and the availability at the same time of large numbers of medieval manuscripts as waste." (Pickwoad 2000 "Fragments", 1-2) The dissolution of monasteries during the Protestant Reformation contributed significantly to the availability of manuscripts for bookbinding materials. The contents of some libraries were broken up and sold on an international market, but manuscript waste was also used in bindings from areas that remained Catholic, pointing to the economic forces driving the choice of this material. Outdated liturgical texts seem to be common victims (Pickwoad 2000 "Fragments", 2-3).

Supporting the theory of economic drivers is that many manuscript waste bindings appear to lack aesthetic consideration. As Paterson (2018, 453) notes, "Not surprisingly, many [manuscript waste coverings] were done with little regard to how the manuscript appeared on the volume. Frequently there is a haphazard quality about the placement, so the written text of the manuscript may be skewed or even upside down. Bindings in these categories were occasionally made from multiple leaves of vellum pieced together, typically to accommodate larger volumes. Often there was no attempt made to disguise the fact that multiple pieces were used to form the covering." While often the script was often washed away on the exterior to create a plain binding, occasionally writing or illuminations were left behind as ornamentation. They were also occasionally painted over to cover up unsightly script (Alvis 2018; Delbey et al. 2019). Naturally, exceptions exist, and some bindings seem to have been intentionally covered with manuscript leaves using the illumination as decoration (Pickwoad and McKitterick 2013).

In the early 19th and 20th centuries, rare book dealers revived the practice and would occasionally take parchment folios from a medieval book as covering material to create a cover for an early printed volume, sometimes breaking up a medieval codex in the process (Paterson 2018). The resulting new binding in an old style with old materials gives the impression of being not quite right.

Many manuscript fragment bindings now survive as items separated from the books they once covered. Library and museum collections frequently have parchment fragments that retain the remnants of the secondary binding structures that show how they were used, such as folds, areas of grime, adhesive residues, board fragments, fragments of cords or thread, sewing holes, etc. Enough evidence can sometimes show exactly what the function of the former folio was (see Pickwoad 2000 "Fragments"; Sheppard 2000).

Painted Parchment[edit | edit source]

Parchment book covers were occasionally painted. Green seems to be a common choice as it masks writing when manuscript waste is used as the covering material. Three 16th- and 17th-century books "were identified in the Herlufsholm Special Collection of the University Library of Southern Denmark, the bindings of which were partly decorated with green paint found to contain arsenic," (Delbey et al 2019, 1). The green paint was identified as a mixture of orpiment and indigo through a variety of analytical techniques including XRF, Raman, XRD, and polarized light microscopy. Another book with green-painted quarter-bound parchment cover was recently identified at the Smithsonian's Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History. The pigment was determined by analysis with XRF to be a mixture of orpiment and possibly Prussian blue or indigo (Alvis 2018).

A more elaborate style of painted parchment bindings were occasionally produced by German Protestant religious groups. Stiff board parchment bindings were blind stamped with large botanical designs and then hand-painted. Examples can be found at Duke University Library (Neu-vermehrt- und vollständiges Gesang-Buch, 1774, Jantz B#1628) and at the library at the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library (Vollstandiges Marburger Gessang-buch, 1792, 1959.2815).

Transparent Parchment[edit | edit source]

In England in 1785, transparent parchment or transparent vellum bindings were patented by James Edwards, member of the Edwards of Halifax bookbinding and publishing firm. The vellum was made transparent and then decorated on the underside with opaque paints. (Middleton & Nixon 1978, 145) "The Edwards patent of 1785 described the method of rendering vellum transparent by soaking it in water in which a small quantity of pearl ash had been dissolved and by pressing it hard until it became transparent. It can then be drawn upon and painted; the completed decoration must be lined with paper attached with flour paste." (Nixon and Foot 1992, 91) [The patent is quoted in T. W. Hanson, Papers, Reports, Etc. Read before the Halifax Antiquarian Society (1912), 193-4.]

Early in the 20th century, an English binder named Cedric Chivers revived the technique, modifying it slightly by executing paintings on paper, which were then covered with transparent vellum during binding. He called the material "Vellucent", and the first Vellucent binding was completed in 1903 (Middleton & Nixon 1978, 146). Shortly after, Vellucent was recommended as a repair material for nineteenth century leather bindings that had broken joints or red rot. The Vellucent was meant to be applied over the original binding as a literal protective skin, allowing the decorative tooling to be seen through the material (MacAlister 1905, 208-211).

References[edit | edit source]

Introduction

Cummins, Thomas B. F. 2014. Manuscript Cultures of Colonial Mexico and Peru: New Questions and Approaches. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute.

Duke University Libraries. nd. "Neu-Vermehrt-Vellum Book Conservation · 10 Years, 10 Treatments: An Exhibit of Conservation Treatments from the Duke University Libraries Conservation Laboratory." n.d. Duke University Library Exhibits. Accessed February 15, 2023.

Leonard, Irving A. 1942. "Best Sellers of the Lima Book Trade, 1583." The Hispanic American Historical Review 22 (1): 5–33.

Romero, Martha E. 2013. "European Influence in the Binding of Mexican Printed Books of the Sixteenth Century." In Suave Mechanicals: Essays on the History of Bookbinding, edited by Julia Miller. Ann Arbor: The Legacy Press. 382–411.

See also: Romero Ramirez, Martha Elena. 2013. "Limp, Laced-Case Binding in Parchment on Sixteenth-Century Mexican Printed Books Vol. 1 and Vol 2." Doctoral Thesis, London: Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts London.

Stiff-Board Parchment Bindings

Adams, Morgan. 2013. "Modeling History: Making a Stiff-Board Parchment Binding with a Slotted Spine." Books, Health, and History: The New York Academy of Medicine.

Clarkson, Christopher. 1999. "A stiff-board vellum binding in which the covering has been slotted across the spine to accommodate raised bands." In International Conference on Conservation and Restoration of Archival and Library Materials (Erice, 22th-29th April 1996), edited by C. Federici and P.F. Munafò. Palermo: G.B. Palumbo. 2: 537-549.

Geraty, Peter. 2019. "A Manual Approach to Stiff-Board Parchment Binding." In Suave Mechanicals: Essays on the History of Bookbinding Volume 5, edited by Julia Miller. Legacy Press: Ann Arbor. 125-196.

Middleton, Bernard C., and Howard Millar Nixon. 1978. A History of English Craft Bookbinding Technique. London: The Holland Press.

Pugliese, Sylvia. 2001. "Stiff Board Vellum Binding with Slotted Spine." Papier Restaurierung – Mitteilungen Der IADA 2 (Supplement): 93–101.

Scheper, Karin. 2015. "'To Conserve or Not to Conserve, That Is the Question.'" Medievalbooks (blog). December 11, 2015.

Vodopivec, Jedert. 2009. "Medieval Bindings: Stiff Board Structures in Slovenian Manuscript Collection." Libellarium : Časopis Za Istraživanja u Području Informacijskih i Srodnih Znanosti 2 (1): 1–27.

Semi-Limp Parchment Bindings

Albritton, Erin and Christina Amato. 2016. "A Study of Two Semi-Limp Parchment Binding Styles in the Rare Book Collection at The New York Academy of Medicine Library." In Suave Mechanicals: Essays on the History of Bookbinding, vol. 3, edited by Julia Miller. Ann Arbor: Legacy Press. 2-61.

Giuffrida, Barbara. 1974. "Limp and Semi-limp Vellum Bindings." Designer Bookbinders Review 4, Autumn 1974.

Giuffrida, Barbara. 1975. "Limp and Semi-limp Vellum Bindings." Designer Bookbinders Review 5, Spring 1975.

Giuffrida, Barbara. 1976. "Limp and Semi-limp Vellum Bindings." Designer Bookbinders Review 8, Autumn 1976.

Martin, Henri-Jean. 1993. Print, power, and people in 17th-century France. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press.

Pickwoad, Nicholas. 1994. "Onward and Downward: How Binders Coped with the Printing Press before 1800." In A Millennium of the Book: Production, Design & Illustration in Manuscript and Print 900-1900, edited by Robin Myers and Michael Harris. New Castle: Oak Knoll Press, 61-106.

Pickwoad, Nicholas. 1995. "The Interpretation of Bookbinding Structure: An Examination of Sixteenth-Century Bindings in the Ramey Collection in the Pierpont Morgan Library." The Library s6-17 (3): 209–49.

See also: Pickwoad, Nicholas. 2004. "The Interpretation of Bookbinding Structure: An Examination of Sixteenth-Century Bindings in the Ramey Collection in the Pierpont Morgan Library." In Eloquent Witnesses: Bookbindings and Their History, edited by Mirjam M. Foot. New Castle: Oak Knoll Press. 127–70.

Lined Parchment Bindings

Language of Bindings. s.vv. "cover linings."

Pickwoad, Nicholas. 2000a. "The Use of Fragments of Medieval Manuscripts in the Construction and Covering of Bindings on Printed Books." In Interpreting and collecting fragments of medieval books: Proceedings of the Seminar in the History of the Book to 1500, Oxford, 1998, edited by Linda L. Brownrigg and Margaret M. Smith. Los Altos Hills: Anderson-Lovelace. 1-20.

Limp Parchment Bindings

Barrios, P. 2006. "Notes on the Limp Vellum Binding." The Bonefolder: an e-journal for the bookbinder and book artist 2(2): 24-27.

Bearman, Frederick. 2016. "Parchment Booklets, the Royal Wardrobe and the Italian Connection: How the Parchment Booklet Was Adopted as an Administrative Tool in England during the Reign of King Edward I and Edward II (1272-1327)." Care and Conservation of Manuscripts 15: 329–46.

Clarkson, Christopher. 1975. "Limp Vellum Binding and Its Potential as a Conservation Type Structure for the Rebinding of Early Printed Books: A Break with 19th and 20th Century Rebinding Attitudes and Practices." In Preprints of the ICOM Committee for Conservation 4th Triennial Meeting: Venice 13-16 October 1975: 75/15/3/1-15. [Reprinted 1982, Red Gull Press].

Espinosa, Robert. 1993. "The Limp Vellum Binding: A Modification." The New Bookbinder 13: 27-37.

Espinosa, Robert. 1994. "The Components and Fabrication of a Modified Limp Vellum Binding: 'Alum-Tawed Chemise/Vellum Binding.'" Guild of Book Workers 14th Annual Seminar on the Standards of Excellence.

Fitzsimons, Eileen. 1986. "Limp Vellum Bindings: Their Value as a Conservation Binding." 7 (3): 125–42.

Gillespie, Alexandra. 2014. "Bookbinding and Early Printing in England." In A companion to the early printed book in Britain 1476-1558, eds. Vincent Gillespie and Susan Powell. 75-94. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.

Giuffrida, Barbara. 1974. "Limp and Semi-limp Vellum Bindings." Designer Bookbinders Review 4, Autumn 1974.

Giuffrida, Barbara. 1975. "Limp and Semi-limp Vellum Bindings." Designer Bookbinders Review 5, Spring 1975.

Giuffrida, Barbara. 1976. "Limp and Semi-limp Vellum Bindings." Designer Bookbinders Review 8, Autumn 1976.

Gnirrep, W. K., and J. A. Szirmai. 1989. "Spines Reinforced with Metal Rods in Sixteenth-Century Limp Parchment Bindings." Translated by Anna E. C. Simoni. Quaerendo 19 (1–2): 117–40.

Language of Bindings. s.v. "limp covers."

Lindsay, Jen. 1991. "A limp vellum binding sewn on alum-tawed thongs." The New Bookbinder 11: 3-19.

Pickwoad, Nicholas. 2000b. "Tacketed Bindings: A Hundred Years of European Bookbinding." In For the Love of Binding: Studies in Bookbinding Presented to Mirjam Foot, edited by David Pearson. London: British Library; New Castle: Oak Knoll Press. 119-167.

Pickwoad, Nicholas. 2019. "Italian Laced-Case Paper Bindings." Journal of Paper Conservation 20 (1–4): 122–51.

Pugliese, Silvia. 2019. "When Cover Paper Meets Parchment: A Non-Adhesive Variation of the Limp Parchment Binding." Journal of Paper Conservation 20 (1–4): 152–57.

Roberts, Matt T., and Don Etherington. Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology. s.v. "limp binding"

Ryley, Hannah. 2019. "Redrafted and Double-Wrapped: Binding a Medieval English Romance." New Bookbinder 39 (2019).

Scholla, Agnes. 2008. "Terminology and Typology of Limp Bindings." In La Reliure Médiévale: Pour Une Description Normalisée, 61–73. Turnhout: Brepols.

Szirmai, J. A. 1999. "Limp Bindings." In The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding. Aldershot: Ashgate. 285–319.

Parchment Bindings with Leather Overbands

Bearman, Frederick. 2018. "The Laced Overband: Its Place in the History of Stationery Bindings." Care and Conservation of Manuscripts 16: 197–226.

Beaty, Katherine. 2020. "Tackets, Buckles, and Overbands: Italian Stationery Bindings of the HBS Medici Family Collection." In Suave Mechanicals: Essays on the History of Bookbinding, vol, 6. Edited by Julia Miller, Ann Arbor: The Legacy Press. 61–119.

Care and Conservation 18. 2021. "Katherine Beaty and Kelli Piotrowski – From Florence to Rome."

Guild of Book Workers. 2018. 2007 - Chela Metzger - Creating Medieval Stationer's Binding Structures: Lacing Patterns, Tacketing Methods, and Leather. https://vimeo.com/ondemand/07gbw2.

See also: Metzger, Consuela G. 2007. "Creating Medieval Stationer’s Bindings Structures."

Howe, Deborah. 2015. "The Brut Chronicle: Revived and Reconstructed." Book and Paper Group Annual 34: 50–56.

Language of Bindings. s.vv. "stationery bindings."

Parchment as Structural Components

Beckers, Astrid. "Little Knot-Binding?" Bound for History (blog). March 13, 2023.

Treatment of Parchment Bindings

Clarkson, Christopher. 1987. "Preservation and Display of Single Parchment Leaves and Fragments." Conservation of Library and Archive Materials and the Graphic Arts. Guy Petherbridge, ed. London: Butterworths. 201-209.

Duqueyroix, Nadège, Laurianne Robinet, and Coralie Barbe. 2015. "Expandable Polyester Hinges for Parchment Mounting Performance in Fluctuating Environmental Conditions." Journal of Paper Conservation 16 (1): 18–28.

Haljasmäe, René, and Tiiu Reimo. 2014. "Conservation of Incunabula in the Academic Library of Tallinn University." Edited by M. J. Driscoll. Care and Conservation of Manuscripts 14: 325–41.

Hill, Roger. [1970s] Limp Vellum Binding as a Modern Conservation Technique. (Binding advisor: Christopher Clarkson. Film editor: Peter Watson. Directed and photographed by Roger Hill at the Slade Bindery, Petersfield, England. Early 1970s. (Possibly a BBC production))

Keus, Katinka. 2011. "Conservation of Vellum Bindings with Tyvek®." The New Bookbinder 31: 61–62.

Magee, Cathie. 2019. "High Acyl Gellan Gum for Parchment Conservation." Book and Paper Annual 39, 112-118.

Paterson, Dan. 2018. "Treatment of two vellum manuscript waste bindings and a survey of similar bindings in American research libraries." Care and Conservation of Manuscripts 16: 449–65.

Pugh, Sabina. 2000. "The Problem of Light in Duke Humfrey’s Library." The Paper Conservator 24 (1): 13–25.

Roberts, Matt T., and Don Etherington. Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology. s.v. "goldbeater's skin" '

Wong, Victoria. 2019. "Laminates for Mending Split Parchment Joints." Presented at the 47th Annual AIC Meeting, BPG Tips Session, New England.

Modern Parchment Bindings

Guild of Book Workers. 2018. 2007 - Chela Metzger - Creating Medieval Stationer's Binding Structures: Lacing Patterns, Tacketing Methods, and Leather. https://vimeo.com/ondemand/07gbw2.

Hill, Roger, Waters, Peter, and Clarkson, Christopher. 1968. The Restoration of Books, Florence, 1968: A Film Based on the Work in the National Library of Florence Resulting from the Floods on 4 November 1966. Film. London: Royal College of Art funded by the Italian Art and Archives Rescue Fund.

Lindsay, Jen. 1991. "A limp vellum binding sewn on alum-tawed thongs." The New Bookbinder 11: 3-19.

Langwe, Monica. 2013. Limp Bindings from the Vatican Library. Langwe: Sweden.

Ligatus Language of Bindings Thesaurus. Accessed April 30, 2018.

Has definitions for limp covers, stitched bindings laced-case limp bindings, and drummed-on.

Sheppard, Jennifer M. 2000. "Medieval Binding Structures: Potential Evidence from Fragments." In Interpreting and Collecting Fragments of Medieval Books: Proceedings of the Seminar in the History of the Book to 1500, Oxford, 1998, edited by Linda L. Brownrigg and Margaret M. Smith. Los Altos Hills: Anderson-Lovelace, 167-175.

Spitzmueller, Pamela J. 2015. "A Visual Dictionary of Traditional Long and Linkstitch Bookbinding Terminology." In Suave Mechanicals: Essays on the History of Bookbinding. Vol 2. Ann Arbor: Legacy Press. 382–425.

Writing simultaneously about European longstitch and linkstitch bindings, Spitzmueller describes the variety of structures and materials commonly found in these volumes. She acknowledges the "Eastern" origins of linkstitch bindings, but does not describe the history or evolution of the structures in-depth. She provides a selective literature review, half of which are 20th-century German sources. The drawings of longstitch binding structures are somewhat lacking in clarity, but the drawings of historical bindings are detailed and interesting, offering clues to condition issues not discussed in the text of the article.

Verheyen, Peter D. 2002. "Vellum on Boards".

Describes a case binding structure for vellum binding with stiff boards, as presented to the 2001 Guild of Book Workers Standards of Excellence. See also Verheyen's article "Vellum Over Boards. Presentation at 21st Standards of Excellence Seminar (2001). Guild of Book Workers Journal 39:1 Spring 2004. 6-20.

Decoration of Parchment Bindings

Alvis, Alexandra K. 2018. "If Books Could Kill: A Deadly Secret in the Cullman Library." Smithsonian Libraries and Archives / Unbound (blog). August 20, 2018.

Bennett, Stuart. 2004. Trade Binding in the British Isles 1660-1800. New Castle: Oak Knoll Press.

Brown, Natalie. 2021. "The Makings of Manuscripts: More than What’s Written on the Page." The National Archives Blog (blog). February 5, 2021.

Delbey, Thomas, Jakob Povl Holck, Bjarke Jørgensen, Alexandra Alvis, Vanessa Haight Smith, Gwénaëlle M. Kavich, Kimberly A. Harmon, Bertil Fabricius Dorch, and Kaare Lund Rasmussen. 2019. "Poisonous Books: Analyses of Four Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Book Bindings Covered with Arsenic Rich Green Paint." Heritage Science 7 (1).

Foot, Mirjam. 2006. Bookbinders at Work: Their Roles and Methods. London: British Library and Oak Knoll Press.

Franck, Peter. 1964. "Vellum Binding." Journal of the Guild of Book Workers III (1): 11–22.

Described his experience at Bremer Press, particularly how their process "might deviate from the technical books of Cockerell, Luers and Wiese."

Geraty, Peter. 2019. "A Manual Approach to Stiff-Board Parchment Binding." In Suave Mechanicals: Essays on the History of Bookbinding Volume 5, edited by Julia Miller. Legacy Press: Ann Arbor. 125-196.

Hannett, John. 1848. Bibliopegia: Or, The Art of Bookbinding in All Its Branches; Illustrated with Engravings. London: Simpkin, Marshall, and Co.

Several reprints available. Available at: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011531305

MacAlister, John Young Walker, Alfred W. Pollard, R. B. McKerrow, and Frank Chalton Francis. 1905. "A new method of preserving old bookbindings, or of rebinding old books." The Library Ser. 2 (6), London: Oxford University Press, 208-211.

Miller, Julia. 2018. "Beyond Tree Calf: Bindings Decorated by Staining." In Meeting By Accident: Selected Historical Bindings. Ann Arbor: The Legacy Press. 8–127.

Nash, Paul W. 2020. "Two Hundred Years of Publisher’s Cloth." Journal of the Printing Historical Society Third Series (1): 241–303.

Nixon, Howard Millar, and Albert Ehrman. 1956. Broxbourne Library: Styles and Designs of Bookbindings, from the Twelfth to the Twentieth Century. London: Published for the Broxbourne Library by Maggs Bros.

Pearson, David. 2005. English Bookbinding Styles 1450-1800: A Handbook. New Castle: Oak Knoll Press.

Pollard, Graham. 1956. "Changes in the Style of Bookbinding, 1550–1830." The Library s5-XI (2): 71–94.

RBMS. 2014. "Stained Vellum Bindings." RBMS Controlled Vocabularies: Binding Terms. 2014.

Reid-Cunningham, James. 2013. "<nowiki> Pierced Vellum Bindings by James Reid-Cunningham | The Guild of Book Workers." Guild of Book Workers. January 20, 2013.

Winterthur. "The Founding of the Winterthur Library." The Winterthur Library Revealed: Five Centuries of Design and Inspiration (blog). May 13, 2014.

Parchment Bindings in Pre-Industrial Era Manuals[edit | edit source]

Bray, Dirck de. 2012. Kort Onderweijs van Het Boeckenbinden = A Short Instruction in the Binding of Books. Edited by Koert van der Horst and Clemens de Wolf. Translated by Harry Lake. Uithoorn: Atelier de Ganzenweide.

Written in 1658 as a manuscript, this is the earliest known Dutch bookbinding manual. de Bray was also a painter illustrated the manuscript himself with bindery scenes. The first edition of a translation was printed in 1977.

Faust, Anshelmus. 1987. Beschrijvinghe ende onderwijsinghe ter discreter ende vermaerder consten des boeckbinders handwerck = Prescription et enseignement de la discrète et fameuse science de la manifacture des relieurs de livres. Edited by Georges Colin. Studia Bibliothecae Wittockianae 2. Bruxelles: Bibliotheca Wittockiana & Fl. Tulkens.

Written in 1612, the extant manuscript is bound in a three-quarter alum-tawed and parchment dos-a-dos binding. "The earliest European manual of bookbinding. It ranges over bindings in wooden boards, bindings covered with parchment, pigskin, calf, sheep and velvet; edge gilding; the mixing of pigments for dyeing leather; making ink and varnish and much else," (Pollard and Potter 1984, 15).

Pollard, Graham, and Esther Potter. 1984. Early Bookbinding Manuals: An Annotated List of Technical Accounts of Bookbinding to 1840. Occasional Publication, no. 18. Oxford: Oxford Bibliographical Society, Bodleian Library.

Additional early manuals can be found in this volume.

Parchment Bindings in 19th and 20th Century Manuals[edit | edit source]

Burdett, Eric. 1983. The Craft of Bookbinding: A Practical Handbook. London: David & Charles.

Cowie. 1828. "Cowie's bookbinder's manual: containing a full description of leather and vellum binding; directions for gilding of paper and book-edges and numerous valuable recipes for sprinkling, colouring, & marbling; together with a scale of bookbinders' charges; a list of all the book and vellum binders in London." Accessed March 8, 2021.

Diehl, Edith. 1946. Bookbinding: Its Background and Technique. 2 vols. New York: Rinehart & Co.

Available at: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001161392

Middleton, Bernard C. 1972. The Restoration of Leather Bindings. Chicago: American Library Association.

Middleton, Bernard C. 1978. A History of English Craft Bookinding Technique. Second supplemented edition. London: Holland Press.

Zaehnsdorf, Joseph W. 1890. The Art of Bookbinding: A Practial Treatise. Second. London: George Gell & Sons.

Blogs and Instructions[edit | edit source]

Albritton, Erin, and Christina Amato. 2015. "What Lies Beneath: Semi-Limp Parchment Bindings in The Academy’s Rare Book Collection (Items of the Month)." Books, Health and History (blog). April 22, 2015.

Pinkney, Annabel. 2020. "Independent Study in the Lab – Tacketed Binding." Bunsen and Bronte: C-U at the Lab (blog). April 13, 2020.

thebookandpapergathering. 2016. "A Mid-16th-Century Tacketed Parchment Binding: The First Minute Book of the Commission of Sewers 1557-1606, London Metropolitan Archives, City of London." The Book & Paper Gathering (blog). September 13, 2016.

Udina, Rita. n.d. "Limp Vellum Binding Conservation." Rita Udina: Paper & Books Conservator - Restorer. Accessed July 9, 2021.

History of This Page[edit | edit source]


Prior to the creation of the AIC Conservation Wiki, this page was created as "Section 4 - Chapter 2 - Parchment" of the Book Conservation Catalog by Abbey Haywood and Jim Hinz. For more see: History of the BPG Wiki. In 2020, the page was substantially rewritten to focus on parchment used as a covering materials for books.


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