My year-long experiment in weekly posting a new binding description finally came to an end last week with the beautiful Wardlaw Bible. This year’s worth of work evolved from an idea that I had during the attendance of last year’s Ligatus conference in Oxford, The Place of Bindings. I spent two days surrounded by some of the world experts on book bindings and their enthusiasm for their areas of expertise was palpable. I came back to the north of Scotland with a renewed interest in book bindings, and began to turn my eye to the collections I had been entrusted to catalogue.
I don’t think I really knew what I was starting when I first began writing the 52 Weeks of Fantastic Bindings posts, but the weekly thread would take me into the heart of some of St Andrews’ finest collections. When I began last June, I was still finishing in-depth cataloguing work on the British portion of the Typographical Collection and hadn’t had much time to explore other collections curated by the Rare Books team. In order to keep some variety and interest in the binding posts, I had to quickly step out of the collection that I knew and begin searching for book bindings that fit the main criterion: fantastic. The Bible Collection was a standard go-to when I was running short on time on a Friday afternoon with no binding post ready, which is no surprise since large-format devotional text are perfect for elaborate decorations and contemporary trends. I found a great many of these binding posts in the general rare books collections as well, and some of the 19th century illustrated bindings have been the most popular in the thread. My favourite post of the thread was probably week 36, a gnarly, stitched-together 16th century binding found on one of our incunabula: a great puzzle to solve and a wonderful example of the re-use of binding materials.
This thread has been so popular that the Department of Special Collections has decided to run a new, weekly thread starting at the end of this month: 52 Weeks of Inspiring Illustrations. This thread will highlight some of the fantastic illustrative material we have in our collections: Photographic, Manuscript & Rare Book. The posts will be shorter in commentary and authored by the curators of each collection and will provide another year’s worth of lovely posts.
To thank you all who have helped me find a binding worth commenting on in the last hours of a week, or who have helped me identify a technique or material, and to all who viewed, commented on, re-Tweeted and re-blogged these posts I have put together a visual index of all 52 weeks of fantastic bindings. Each thumbnail will take you to the original post with full descriptions and hi-resolution images.