Tag Archives: parchment

Scrolls and concertinas

In a previous post we examined  lontars,  collections of dried palm leaves which have texts or illustrations inscribed on them, and held together by either a central thread or threads on either ends.

Papyrus and dried leaves do not have a very long life, and this was known to contemporary writers. As a medium they are not very flexible. It seems only logical that the invention of paper would produce an evolutionary change in how the written word was stored.

The fragility and handling difficulties of the lontar, or the Chinese  pothi made from bamboo slats, was overcome by writing on long sheets of paper.

The continuous form of the scroll was first developed in China during the Tang dynasty.  While much of the writing was previously done on silk, it wasn’t until the Tang period  that artists began to use paper as their medium. Scrolls can be read horizontally, from right to left, or vertically. Scrolls were not necessarily for every day use. While some scrolls contained religious texts, scrolls depicting landscapes and scenes were used as decoration.

Scroll

The scroll allows for the slow development of a story. Presumably, presenting bite size chunks of information allows the reader to concentrate and be fully aware of what he is seeing or reading. This form was prevalent until the Song dynasty.

In Asia there are two varieties of scroll:

The horizontal scroll, when used  for texts, is called  makimono in japanese (with few illustrations). The picture scroll is called juan zhou in chinese or emakimono in japanese, meaning in the chinese manner.

The vertical scroll can also be used for text, however as a picture scroll it is called biao-fa or guafu in chinese or  kakemono in Japanese.

In its construction, the Asian scroll differs to the European scroll in that it is made up of several sheets of paper, attached around and behind the main scroll piece.

 

vertical scroll

 

 

In Europe,  the parchment scroll had been used from the earliest times and even after  the advent of printing. In fact, scrolls are still in use today as away of archaizing information; that is, increasing the importance of the information contained within it, hence the bestowing of university degrees in scroll form.

Parchment scrolls were easy to carry in one’s pocket, vest or satchel, making information easily transportable. If you needed to add information but weren’t too sure how much needed to be added, scrolls were quite adaptable. A piece of parchment could easily be sewn onto the end. Scrolls were also particularly handy for maps or for writing out genealogies. They were used extensively in mass, where the priest read out parts of the mass, and while reading the scroll an image could be seen by the congregation.

 

However, unrolling scrolls must have been tedious and inconvenient. It is no wonder that in Asia at least, the concertina provided a first step towards the codex. While the pages of a concertina are folded, it is usually read in a two page spread, not necessarily as a drawn out concertina shape. It is my experience that more often than not Asian concertinas horizontally.

Concertinas sizes depend on lengths of paper.  One sheet may have been long enough to contain all the necessary information; however it is likely that several sheets would be pasted together end to end to form a continuous length. A search on the internet will reveal a myriad easy ways to make a concertina: folding a single sheet of paper, attaching two boards on the end, and there is a book.

concertina drawing

Different ways of folding a concertina and attaching separate leaves

 

Book artists have embraced the idea of the concertina because it is a quick and effective means of producing a book. if you want to learn more about making concertina bindings in the Asian manner,  Kojiro Ikegami’s seminal book on Japanese binding techniques[1]is a terrific place in which to start.

 

 

[1] Ikegami, Kōsanjin. & Stephan, Barbara B.  (1986).  Japanese bookbinding : instructions from a master craftsman.  New York :  Weatherhill

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Title pages, vignettes and other decor – not watermarks

You may or may not know that I have been conducting some photo research into the bindings in the rare book stack of the National Library of Australia. For the last two years, I’ve managed to examine over 220 books ranging from 1470 to 1900. At first I was only looking at their bindings, mostly because some of the books were in such a state that I could see the spine linings of recycled parchment and other material.

And one thing led to another and hey presto, I’m also searching for watermarks. And all this research leads me to write a book; ok, maybe two books.

However, since enrolling in modules from the course The Book: Histories across space and time offered by Harvard University through the EdEx platform, I have realised that there are equally important parts of the book I had previously ignored.

For example, who really cares about a title page? Well I didn’t. To me it was just some bland page or pages at the front of the book; let me get to the meat of the subject! why bother me with all this other info? While enrolled in the History of the book in the 17th and 18th centuries as well as in Print and manuscript in Western Europe, Asia an the Middle East (1450 -1650), I discovered that there is more to the title page than I had appreciated.

The title page of today has evolved to become what it now is. To put it briefly (I do recommend auditing those two courses above), early books did not have title pages. Or at best they had very little to indicate what the reader what letting himself in for. The two images below give you the basics, plus some place to scribble:

The image below is just images, no text.

 

The back matter of the book would contain a list of the first few lines from the sections; presumably this would help the binder bind the book, and would allow the reader to make sure that he had all the pages in the correct order. The image below also has the printer’s device.

 

If we leave the 15th century, the sixteenth century now sees more elaborate text

 

More of the relevant information is at the front; saves us searching all the way to the back of the book. And as time passes and readers become more educated, or in fact, that there are now more readers in the general population, the first few pages contain the what will now be called the front matter: it will have the title, author’s name, place of printing, printer’s name, people who contributed financially to the making of the book, and possibly endorsements, royal or otherwise.

Now we enter the 17th century. As printing was firstly done in black, any other added colour made the book more expensive. The red lines in the image below I suppose would have served to remind the reader of old parchment books, now long disused.

The front matter turns into messages to the reader from the translators, or the authors, and we get royal approbations, or recommendations by other authoritative figures. Modern branding techniques owe it all to publishers in the 17th century! Sometimes, if you wanted to be secretive you printed ambiguous address and false names so that you were not persecuted for your ideas.

 

The problem with developing interests is that two years ago I didn’t take the correct photos. Now that I am interested in the other matter of books, I find that my data is now lacking in evidence. I wasn’t paying attention to the little vignettes produced by the printers:

And I could go on ad nauseum with photos. I wish I could talk to you, show you in the books all these vignettes, title pages, and yes watermarks. As Australians we are lucky that we have access, for no reason whatsoever, to all this material. All you need is a national library card; go online now and get one. There is so much wonder to see in these books, and nothing we do today, in terms of marketing, was not thought up by our ancestors.

and to end this post, I couldn’t help myself, look at this:

RB JES 4979 Historia theologico-critica de vita, scriptis, atque doctrina sanctorum patrum Augsburg 1783

RB JES 4979 Historia theologico-critica de vita, scriptis, atque doctrina sanctorum patrum Augsburg 1783

How beautiful is this plate?

My books will describe about 220 books, with over 400 watermarks. Available by March 2017, in time for the Bookbinders Symposium 2017 to be held next March in Canberra.

cheers

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Three library visits: Lambeth Palace, Senate House, Wellcome Library.

The European Bookbinding course I was able to attend in July was a theoretical course. We took plenty of notes, watched plenty of slides and we got to look at plenty of books from afar. It included three library visits.  Well, when I say visited, it really was more like sit in a room and look at books. The Prof was the only one examining the books; we were lucky if we could get a focused photo. However….

Lambeth Palace Library:

I arrived at Waterloo station amid the chaos of a station wide evacuation. I walked away from the very familiar wooping sound of fire alarms in a vain attempt to find the bus to take me to Lambeth Palace . The Palace was not far, but as time wore on and drizzle appeared I took a taxi. I arrived to find a wild garden.

Lambeth Palace Front garden

I love gardening, and my Braidwood house was filled with cottage flowers. It was fantastic to see them run wild here amongst weeds and tall grass. So much for manicured english gardens! There was an exhibition and garden tour, but I, unfortunately, had little time for them.

As I waited in front of a nameless door, I was joined by Morgan and Diana. Security was tight: we had a hard time getting permission to find the toilet. After we had all gathered at the correct entrance we trooped to a small upstairs library room to view some of Lambeth Palace’s examples of laced-in cases.

Our visit to Lambeth palace with Julie, Mary and Iris

The books

Senate House Library:

The books came to us since we were in the building. I didn’t take any notes. I was too busy taking photos for which I now have no explanations. Ideally two of us should have taken this course: one to take notes, the other to take photos! It was one more book after the other, laced in bindings, mostly vellum, a few boards with interesting clasps.

Wellcome Library:

At the Wellcome Institute

Due to understaffing, we were not able to visit the Wellcome Library. I actually caught the bus there, not realising how close it was to my hotel room. We gathered instead at the Wellcome Institute next door. The Wellcome library is primarily a medical library. We were there to examine various manners of lacing in boards.

1497 Germany 3 double support no endbands kapital bunds, oak boards

In the foyer there was an interesting glass sculpture

Glass sculpture at the Wellcome Institute

I had expected to be walking around the various buildings, so from a touristic aspect it was slightly disappointing not seeing the “behind the scenes” action. However we were able to view and discuss many old books with interesting structures.

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