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Understanding and caring for bookbindings

This Preservation Advisory Centre training day was held at the British Library Centre for Conservation on 19 July 2011.

This training day will help librarians and archivists understand the types of bindings in their collections and will provide guidance on handling and describing bindings and on appropriate conservation techniques. Participants will be given an overview of the history of Western bookbindings, with examples drawn from British Library collections. There will be a an opportunity to visit the studios in the British Library Centre for Conservation.


Why did you attend this training day?

  • To gain an overview and knowledge of basic bookbindings, and conservation and preservation techniques.
  • I am now responsible for a collection of rare books but only have archive training.
  • We are intending to get our historic collection out of storage to assess and catalogue it.
  • To gain further understanding of historical bindings in order to describe them accurately on the catalogue.
  • Consolidation of knowledge about European historic bookbindings.

What did you learn?

  • So much! How to identify different types of binding and their materials, how to describe bindings, where to look for further information. How to identify age of bindings.
  • I learnt a lot about the structure of books, about effective ways to store, use and catalogue the collection, and how the British Library handles conservation.
  • To recognise variations in bookbindings. To appreciate various ways bindings are preserved and conserved.
  • A lot of gap filling.
  • Lots of terminology and lots more!

What will you do differently as a result of attending this training day?

  • Advice on handling and support will be implemented.
  • Considering boxing etc for some of our bound volumes. Will be able to create better descriptions.
  • I will go and explore my collection with more knowledge about bindings.
  • Start describing bookbindings myself, rather than always relying on colleagues.
  • I am going to get the school's historic collection out of storage, assess and catalogue it, and put forward a plan of how it might be stored and accessed in the future.


10.00 Introductions and welcome
10.15 Binding types and structures and their significance
David Pearson, Guildhall Library
11.45 Break
12.00 Handling bindings: the use of supports and protective enclosures
Sarah Hamlyn, British Library
13.00 Lunch
13.45 Describing bindings
Karen Limper-Herz, British Library
14.25 The conservation of bookbindings
Roswitha Ketzer, British Library
15.25 Break
15.40 Tour of the Centre for Conservation
16.00 End