Issues in the Rebinding of Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts: Facing the Future, Conserving the Past, and Creating Useable Objects for Today

By Alexandra Newman.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: December 9, 2016 $US5.00

Illuminated manuscripts present unique conservation problems due to the fragility of their illustrations, both in terms of preservation and accessibility. This article explores the issues inherent in the decision to rebind or keep intact a medieval illuminated manuscript, and generates a rebinding model based around these issues. The article evaluates the conservation policies of a university, a museum, and a private collector in order to compare and contrast their approaches to rebinding, which depend on how they see the work being used in the future. In addition, firsthand accounts and views from the decision makers and the conservators who actually carry out the projects are considered. By synthesizing the evaluations and accounts, a widely applicable binding model is developed, and its structure outlined. An illuminated manuscript is then evaluated using this model as a case study.

Keywords: Manuscripts, Future Directions, Conservation, Book History, Special Collections, Material Culture, Bookbinding, Rebinding, Preservation, Medieval Manuscripts

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 15, Issue 1, March 2017, pp.1-16. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: December 9, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 761.885KB)).

Alexandra Newman

Library Technician, Special Collections Department, Smithsonian Libraries, Washington, D.C., USA


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