Communion Of Dreams

Psst. Hey, wanna see something … special?

Remember that 700+ year old bible I posted about the beginning of June? This one:



Well, this weekend I got started working on the book. And I thought I’d share  a couple of images of what I found inside, and what I’ve done to it so far.

Here’s the spine of the text block, once it had been freed from the cover seen above:



That’s after I’ve removed the gross chunks of paper liners which were applied between the cords. I’ve since removed all the rest of the liners, first using a jeweler’s tweezers and then a scalpel. Anyway, I want to note the very evident lines of sewing stations (holes punched through the folios) from the original binding. That shows that the book has been rebound at least once.

Here’s another image:


That’s an image of the interior of the cover. Which shows a couple of interesting things. First, you can see how the vellum of the cover molded itself to the spine of the text block over time. That sort of thing happens over *centuries*.

Second, how the supporting cords are laced into the cover. The sewing was done in a way that it wrapped around the cords, which helps to support the overall structure. The cords are then laced into a channel, looped over the board material, and then come back on the inside and are pasted down. This is VERY common of medieval and Renaissance bindings.

And lastly — note that the cover material is an early variety of bookboard. It’s NOT wood. This is a clue to the age of the binding. It means that it is after the introduction of papermaking to Europe. Which is to say, this book was probably rebound sometime in the 14th or 15th century. (Papermaking technology was introduced to Southern Europe late in the 13th century, but it took a little while to disseminate across the continent.)

So, I removed a couple of layers of more modern papers on the inside, and pulled the old ends of the cords out of the bookboard. Then I dampened the board on the inside, put it between moisture barrier sheets, and put it into a press to flatten overnight. Then once the spine of the text block was fairly clean I applied a layer of conservation adhesive (a blend of methyl-cellulose and poly-vinyl-acetate) and some fairly heavy Kozo-fiber paper, which I stippled onto the spine so that it would conform to the existing structure and hold everything in place. Like this:



You’ll note that it extends past the text block on the left-hand side of the spine. I can trim that excess off with a scalpel once everything is dried. I should finish up the rest of the work tomorrow.

Oh, and speaking of tomorrow … remember, the week-long give-away of my books starts then!


Jim Downey


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[…] book. That thought occurred to me following a session in the bindery working on the bible I have blogged about earlier. I had just done some work on it, then had to put everything into one of my presses and let […]

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