On 21-22 November, Special Collections welcomed David Pearson, former Director of Culture, Heritage & Libraries for the City of London Corporation and author of Provenance Research in Book History (1994), English Bookbinding Styles (2005) and Books as History (2008), for a workshop on provenance in printed books. Over the course of two days, staff, students and academics were treated to a full programme of sessions ranging from the general principles of provenance, through annotations, palaeography, bookplates and heraldry. Pearson illustrated his sessions using examples gleaned from the St Andrews University Library collections which he had selected in an intensive research day in the stacks with Elizabeth Henderson, Rare Books Librarian.
On the evening of the 21st, Pearson delivered a well-attended public lecture at Parliament Hall on The Value of Historic Bookbindings: A St Andrews Perspective, which highlighted the uniqueness of the bindings of early printed books and how they can contribute to our knowledge of not just the history of a specific book, but also the history of how previous owners or readers encountered texts as they were passed through from hand to hand. By preserving, cataloguing and making available to readers the rare books in Special Collections, the University of St Andrews Library is taking part in the vital work of extending knowledge of unique heritage materials.
The intensive focus on bindings and related topics over these two days was a valuable training experience for Special Collections staff. The Masters students who attended were fascinated by the opportunity to engage with an eminent expert in his field and those academics who attended were encouraged and perhaps surprised to see the depth and richness of the examples that David had been able to identify. We are most grateful to him for his taking the time to visit St Andrews.