Incunable bindings at the Watkinson

   Posted by: rring   in visiting researchers

We have been delighted to welcome Scott Husby, former book conservator at Princeton University and for years prior to that a professional bookbinder under his own shingle.  Scott is working on a retirement project which will be a truly vital resource for book history: a database of “incunable” bindings–that is, bindings on books printed before 1501 (termed incunabula, Latin for “cradle,” referring to the early period of printing in Europe between 1450 and 1500).

Scott has visited over 30 libraries and described the bindings of over 23,000 volumes.  He has taken photographs, but more importantly for identification purposes, rubbings of bindings which are contemporary with their contents:  placing a piece of acid-free paper over the binding and rubbing lightly with pencil reveals many tooling marks that you cannot see as well with a photo; one can identify most of the 15thC binderies by their tools. 

Scott is also making note of later bindings, and dating them when possible, so his database is also a record of what has been done with these books over the centuries.

The book he is working on in the pics shown here is a 1495 edition of the commentaries on the epistles of Paul by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), and bears the bookplate of the Buxheim Library, which was dispersed in 1883. Shown here also is the front cover and the first page of text, where you can see a blank space reserved for a larger painted initial letter which was never completed.

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