A Painting of Eighteenth Century French Trade Bindings and Paper Wrappers

Bookbinder Colin Urbina recently posted a number of great images of books in art he noticed at the Art Institute of Chicago on his low_mountain instagram feed. In particular, the painting of Madame Francois Buron by Jean Louis-David caught my eye. It may give us some insight into how books were used in the eighteenth century, though there is always the possibility the books depicted were props.

Jean Louis-David, Madame François Buron, 1769. The Art Institute of Chicago.

If this is an actual depiction of reading, it adds to the mountain of evidence that full leather trade bindings and “temporary” marbled paper wrapper bindings were consumed simultaneously. This type of pictorial evidence, along with the evidence from bindings that book historians such as David Pearson have gathered, and the usual working method of bookbinders, are all closing the coffin lid on the longstanding idea that paper bindings were intended to be rebound into a proper leather binding before use. The wear on the paper bindings —deftly painted with a white line along the top edge of the book Mme. Buron is reading — suggests these books may have been read before. 

But it is a little strange to have four books so close at hand, since she doesn’t appear to be a scholar, and three of the books aren’t open to specific pages: evidence of cross-referencing. It could simply be her reading desk, though.

If the books are intended to be props, what can they tell us about the sitter, and how do they relate to the painting? Why has she interrupted her reading to look at us? And what could  she be reading?  Louis-David’s painting technique evokes the solidity of the leather bound books in contrast with the loose airiness of paper ones. The way the paper book is cradled in her hand is incredibly realistic. The brush work on the splayed page edges blend with the her blouse, and the triangular composition is anchored by the books. The books are a key aspect of the composition.

The details of the bindings are rendered exquisitely. The cat’s paw decoration on the full leather trade binding is instantly recognizable. The red over black title labels, full guilt spine, and single blind line on the boards is historically accurate. The paper bindings are covered in a common, or french snail marbled pattern. The pattern is rendered loosely, almost abstractly, in some areas. Or could it depict a spoiled sheet, not good enough for endsheets or other purposes?

Jean Louis-David, Madame François Buron, 1769. Detail. The Art Institute of Chicago.

The book she is holding, with its thick flatish spine apparent at the head, appears to have multiple signatures. Intriguingly, the paper covered book lying flat appears to be a single signature, which would be very unlikely for a letterpress book; could it be a blank book, notebook, or journal? Is it possible she is reading something private, like a diary?

She is shielding her eyes from the light source (truth?), but at the same time the page she is reading is in the shadows. She looks out at us with a concern, and possibly a bit of weary annoyance. The Hasty Book List also noticed she seems a little caught off guard or shy. A full size image is here.

Upcoming Workshop: 18th Century French Binding at The Georgia Archives, November 6-10, 2017

Eighteenth century French binding models made in Historic Book Structures for Conservators 2017 workshop.

 

Late 18th Century French Binding Structure
Date: November 6-10, 2017
Location: The Georgia Archives in Morrow, Georgia

This workshop will focus on reconstructing a typical 18th century full leather French binding by comparing and contrasting three 18th century technical descriptions, examining extant bindings and using historic tools.

In some respects, this structure is the end of 1,200 years of utilitarian leather binding; fifty years later, the cloth case becomes the dominant inexpensive rigid board structure. The making of the book is very organic and does not rely on numeric measuring. This class is a hands-on explication of historic written texts. We will try to understand how and why these books were made the way they were made — then model as many aspects as possible — all the while acknowledging our inaccuracies and incomplete understanding.

Techniques to be learned:
-Using a beating hammer to beat the textblock before sewing
-Sewing on thin raised single cords
-Lacing in slips into handmade pasteboards in a typical three hole pattern
-Beating the boards
-Trimming all three edges with a plough in-boards while using trindles for the foreedge
-Coloring the edges with vermillion
-Applying vellum transverse spine liners
-Sewing endbands on rolled paper cores
-Paring and covering in full calfskin
-Marbling, pastewashing, and burnishing the leather
-Applying simple blind tooled decoration

Reproductions of 18th century French tools, constructed from plates in Diderot’s Encylopedie (1751-1780) will be available for use. Participants will learn to use and maintain a plough and investigate the problems in translating written descriptions of bookbinding into the construction of a model. Extensive notations (in English) on Gauffecourt’s Traite de la Relieure des Livres (1763) and Dudin’s L’Art du Relieur-doreur de Livres (1772) will be provided.

Basic bookbinding skills are a prerequisite, but this class can serve as an introduction to leather paring. Discussions will include treatment decision making for this particular structure in relation to institutions and private clients. This class is open to all levels of experience: pre-program students, technicians, and mid-career conservators who desire a full week at the bench. Ideally, a variety of participant experience levels will result in an invigorating exchange of information on binding techniques, institutional protocols, and treatment approaches. Students should bring basic bookbinding tools.

A review of this workshop from 2016 by Constant Lem, Book Conservator at the National Library of the Netherlands: <https://jeffpeachey.com/2017/02/07/review-of-18th-century-french-bookbinding-workshop/&gt;

To apply, applicants must submit a resume and brief, one-paragraph statement of intent. Prospective students should outline educational hopes for this class, and review their background in book conservation, bookbinding, or other crafts.

Fee: $700 and a $100 materials fee

Application deadline: September 15, 2017

Send applications to: Kim Norman:  Kim <dot> Norman <at> usg <dot> edu
Include any questions about the facilities, hotels, or transportation (Morrow is close to Atlanta). For questions about the class: Jeff Peachey: jeffrey <dot> peachey <at> gmail <dot> com

Montefiascone Conservation Project 2012

Very raw sienna, which I picked up in a parking lot outside of Sienna, Italy in 2009.

I’m teaching my 18th century French class in Montefiascone, Italy, August 20-24, 2012.  Needless to say I’m thrilled. All the classes look really great. In the first week, Cheryl Porter is teaching her Re-creating the Medieval Palette.  I attended the lecture portion of this class when she taught it here in NYC, and it really opened my eyes.  But it seems taking the class in Italy would be exceptional by soaking in the local pigments and colors — the blue of Lake Bolsena, the red of montepulciano d’abruzzo — bellissimo!  The second week is Julia Miller’s The Glazier Codex.  I was fortunate enough to sit in on a small portion of this class when Julia visited the Morgan Library & Museum while teaching in NYC. The class had the opportunity to spend a morning with the actual Glazier, arguably one of the most important books in the world.  Julia’s scholarly knowledge of this book was impressive.  Ana Beny’s The Mudehar Book looked interesting enough to me to register for it as a student.  I don’t know much about Spanish binding from this pivotal time, and look forward to learning more.  And in week four, I will be teaching my Eighteenth Century French Class, for the first time incorporating a lot of new research — and many powerpoint presentations —  from when I was a fellow at the Morgan last fall.

I think every book conservator should attend Monte at least once in their career. It generally proves to be an unforgettable experience: concentrated learning, the opportunity to forge friendships with international colleagues, and enjoying the hedonistic pleasures that Italy offers.

For further information or to register for one week or more, please contact Cheryl Porter: chezzaporter (at) yahoo.com.

The Monte website.

Check out the Monte Facebook page.

In case you are a little short of funds, consider applying here for Conservation by Design’s Nicholas Hadgraft Scholarship worth 1,500.00 Euros.

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MONTEFIASCONE   SUMMER  2012  

July 30 – August 3

Re-creating the Medieval Palette

Course Tutor: Cheryl Porter

This class will study the colours (made from rocks, minerals, metals, insects and plants) that were processed to produce the colours used by artists throughout the medieval era. The focus will mostly (though not exclusively) be on manuscript art (Islamic and European) and participants will re-create the colours using original recipes. Illustrated lectures, will address the history, geography, chemistry, iconography and conservation issues. Practical making and painting sessions will follow these lectures.

August 6 – 10

The Glazier Codex

Course Tutur: Julia Miller

The Glazier Codex contains a parchment manuscript of the first half of the Acts of the Apostles, written in Coptic and illuminated.  The manuscript and its binding are thought to date from the late 5th  /early 6th century.

The workshop goal is to make a full size model of the original binding.  The original text consists of 15 gatherings of vellum sheets, 4 sheets (a quaternion) of vellum per gathering; we will be substituting paper.  The sewing is a link style variation, and we will be adding simple link style endbands. The Glazier Codex has a decorated leather spine piece that extends beyond the head edge of the spine, nearly covering (and thus protecting) the head edge of the text block.  One theory is that the tail edge of the spine piece extended in a similar fashion to protect the tail edge of the text block.  The Codex has bare wooden boards with two wrapping bands, one extending from the top edge of the upper cover, and one from the fore edge of the upper cover.  Each wrapping band is finished with a decorated bone slip used to anchor the wrapped bands.  There is evidence that the codex had a bookmark attached to the outer corner of the lower board.

Workshop lecture and discussion will compare early codex book formats found in Egypt using images and models of early structures to illustrate structural changes in the codex. Study of the binding of the Glazier Codex will be supported through extensive images of the original. Handouts, including a reading list, will be included in the workshop materials. Basic bookbinding skills are required; we will be doing very minimal paring the leather we use for the binding but we will be sanding wood and bone so please bring a face mask if you prefer.  You may also wish to bring your own supplies of materials (wood, leather, paper) to make additional models and samplers in your free time (!) from the teaching model collection, which ranges from wooden tablets and papyrus notebooks to a late-Coptic full-size model of a Hamuli cover.

August 13 – 17

The Mudejar Binding

Course Tutor: Ana Beny

From Christian Spain, in the 14-16th centuries, as part of the heritage of al-Andalus, came the so-called “Mudejar” binding style – many with Gothic wooden boards and strong Islamic influences in the decoration.

Through the use of Powerpoint and other resources, the course will give an over-view of Gothic binding structures and examine previous influences on its evolution and how it, in turn, influenced later bindings. Special attention will be focused on the characteristics of Spanish bindings throughout this period.

Participants will construct a full-scale model in order to understand the unique features – especially those constructions that control the functioning of the spine and its movement. Students will sew the text-block, prepare the wooden boards and parchment spine lining, make end-bands, board attachment, leather covering, anchor clasps and decorate the cover. There will also be opportunity to practice the blind-tooled decoration with damp and/or heat techniques.

All materials needed to construct the book can be provided, though participants will need to bring basic bookbinding tools. Some knowledge of binding is essential as is the motivation to work longer hours than is usual for the programme.

August 20 – 24

Eighteenth Century French Binding

Course Tutor: Jeff Peachey

Participants will construct a typical full calf late eighteenth century French binding. In some respects, this structure is the end of 1,200 years of hand leather binding; by the mid nineteenth century the mechanized publisher’s cloth case begins to predominate.  Particular attention will be given to the techniques originally used to make these books, informed by close readings of multiple contemporaneous technical descriptions—Gauffecourt’s 1763 Traité de la Relieure des Livres, Diderot’s 1765 Encyclopedié and Dudin’s 1772 L’Art du Relieur-doreur de Livres—the examination of extant bindings, and the use of antique and reproduction tools.  Typical features of this binding style include a hand beaten textblock, edges ploughed in-boards and colored; single or double core endbands, vellum spine liners, and several methods of leather decoration. Several presentations will contextualize the bindings and historic equipment. The numerous problems these structures pose for conservators will also be discussed. This workshop is constantly updated, incorporating ongoing research. Basic bookbinding skills are a prerequisite.

More information: https://jeffpeachey.wordpress.com/workshops-with-peachey/

TEACHERS:

Cheryl Porter has been Director of the Montefiascone Project since its inception in 1988. After graduating from Camberwell College (University of the Arts, London) she worked at University College London Paintings Analysis Unit, analysing the use of pigments in paintings and manuscripts. From 1992-2006 she worked as a freelance conservator, mostly for universities and learned institutions. She was Manager of Conservation and Preservation at the Dar al-Kutub (National Library and Archives

of Egypt) and Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation 2007-2010 and is currently employed as a Consultant for a number of institutions with book, papyrus and manuscript collections in Egypt. She has published many articles concerning colour in manuscripts and has lectured in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and throughout

Europe.

Julia Miller is a bench-trained conservator who in recent years has turned her focus to the study and teaching of historical binding structure and style, with a special emphasis on early Coptic book structures.  Julia has taught a variety of early structures around the U.S. and beyond, and has traveled to Cairo twice, in part to study the bindings that originally sparked her interest in early bindings, the fourth century single-quire bindings known as the Nag Hammadi codices.  In 2008 Julia received a Kress Foundation/FAIC conservation publication fellowship to write a book on historical structure and style titled Books Will Speak Plain: A handbook for identifying and describing historical bindings, published by The Legacy Press and released in December 2010 (thelegacypress.com).  The book is directed toward curators, collectors, and conservators, and will be of interest to book artists who draw on historical structure as a platform for their own work.  Julia is currently editing a collection of essays on the history of binding and will be a contributor on the subject of American scaleboard bindings growing out of a research fellowship at the Library Company of Philadelphia in the fall of 2010; the collected essays will be published in fall of 2012. She will be lecturing or teaching in 2012 for Rare Book School in Virginia, the North Bennet Street School in Boston, the Rare Books and Manuscript program at the University of Illinois, the Oregon College of Arts and Crafts in Portland, and the Montefiascone program in Italy.

Ana Beny is a freelance conservator and consultant, with her own workshop in Madrid. Since 1984, when she graduated from the “Conservatori de les Arts del Llibre” of Barcelona, she has worked on the conservation of artifacts on paper, papyrus and parchment, with special dedication to historical bookbinding. She has conducted workshops and lectured in the Montefiascone Project, Italy, Spain, Greece, Brazil, Philippines and Egypt. Currently she collaborates with various institutions, including the Polytechnic University of Madrid and with Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation & Dar Al-Kutub Manuscript Conservation Project in Cairo.

Jeffrey Peachey

Jeffrey S. Peachey is the owner of a New York City-based studio for the conservation of books and the inventor of conservation tools and machines. He is a Professional Associate in the American Institute for Conservation and for more than 20 years has specialized in the conservation of books for institutions and individuals.  He was the 2011 Sherman Fairchild Conservation Research Fellow at the Morgan Library & Museum, studying the structures, tools and techniques of 18th century French bookbinding. More information: https://jeffpeachey.wordpress.com/about/

The cost of the classes is: 445 British pounds  ($700 US, 550 Euro) per week and includes all tuition (which is in English) and (most) materials. The Montefiascone Project is a not-for-profit organization, and all extra monies are used to finance the cataloguing and the conservation and preservation of the collection.

For further information or to register for one week or more, please contact Cheryl Porter: chezzaporter (at) yahoo.com.