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Book Binding Working Group

On 25 and 27 May 2021, the CERL Working group for bookbindings arranged two online events dedicated to different aspects of historical bookbindings. The working group’s overall objective is to promote the interest for and the knowledge of all aspects of historical bookbindings. One major issue is to complement traditional library cataloguing of bookbindings with more images, on-line resources and information as traditional library cataloguing is often not sufficient for discovery of this highly interesting heritage resource.

Programme and links

Live presentation on 25 May 2021
Bettina Wagner from Staatsbibliothek Bamberg
A mediaeval horn binding and its modern reproduction - the Bamberg Psalter

The pre-recorded presentations were:
Eliana dal Sasso from the University of Hamburg, Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures:
Ethiopian Bookbinding: Variations in the Tradition

Andrew Honey and Matthew Holford from the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford:
Meet the manuscripts: judging a book by its cover

Athanasios Velios from The Ligatus Research Centre, University of the Arts, London:
St. Catherine’s condition- survey: Considerations for linked data

Live presentation on 27 May
Elizabeth Quarmby Lawrence, Rare Books Librarian from the University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh Women Bookbinders of the Arts and Crafts Movement

The pre-recorded presentations were:
Philippa Marks, Curator Bookbindings, Printed Heritage Collections, British Library:
The British Library Image Database of Bookbindings 1996-2021… and beyond

Alberto Campagnolo, Università degli Studi di Udine and Rachel di Cresce, University of Toronto
Recording bookbinding structures and their visualizations as communication tools

Professor Nicholas Pickwoad. Former director of the Ligatus Research Centre:
Looking under the cover: the analysis of an early seventeenth-century laced-case parchment-covered binding

Past events

On 27-28 May 2019, the CERL Book Binding Working Group, in collaboration with Uppsala University Library, organised a two-day workshop on publishing bookbindings, provenance evidence and watermarks online. The full programme can be downloaded here.


Issue 2 - July 2021

Issue 1 - June 2020


CERL wishes to foster collaboration between book binding projects, and encourage the use of standards across these project. It would be desirable to achieve a common access point for information about book bindings, and CERL would wish to play a role in achieving this goal.

  • Bring together information about book binding projects in Europe and beyond, and liaise with these projects
  • Inform book binding projects about the work of CERL
  • Review whether and how, CERL can play a role in these book binding projects
  • Promote a standard including both a simple and an advanced description of bookbindings to facilitate for libraries wishing to publish digital images and/or catalogue entries of bookbindings.


Members only

Members please click here for details of meetings, documents, etc.


  • General

ibookbinding.com (includes instructions re methodology)

  • Belgium

Online exhibition on book edges, KU Leuven

  • France

Biblithèque Sainte-Geneviève, Reliures estampées à froid

Bibliothèque nationale de France, reliures

BnF data model of description of bookbindings

  • Finland

Collection of Jarl Pousar

  • Germany

Subject index to the binding collection of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München comprising names of binders and workshops, provenances, styles and technical aspects, arranged in alphabetical order)

Mediaeval treasure bindings and Tibetan book covers (DFG-funded project for development of a descriptive standard and online presentation system)

For bindings on digitized medieval manuscripts, see

Bindings of incunabula are described in BSB-Ink online, (search field “Einband” by place of binding or workshop and “EBDB-number” for id of workshop)

Einbanddatenbank Database for blind-tooled bindings (mainly German)

Einbandforschungs-Wiki Publishers bindings

VerlagsEinbandDatenbank UB der Freien Universität Berlin Publishers bindings, completed

  • Hungary

Corvina.hu exhibits books from the library of the 15th-century Hungarian king, Matthias Corvinus. The website contains - among other information - a paper of the bindings bound for the king (https://corvina.hu/en/about-corvinas/history/book-binding/) and each book has a (longer or shorter) bookbinding description, for example, https://corvina.hu/en/kotes/virtual-corvinas/codlat234-en/ or https://corvina.hu/en/kotes/virtual-corvinas/codlat347-en/ or https://corvina.hu/en/kotes/virtual-corvinas/codlat358-en/

  • Italy

Decorative Bookbindings at the Brera

  • Netherlands

Special bindings on books printed 1500-1550 (Special Collections, University of Amsterdam)

De Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the National Libraries of the Netherlands has published selections of its bookbindings here and in Wikimedia.

Marike van Roon, University of Amsterdam, started this Facebook page on Embroidered Bindings. Her book about embroidered bindings was published in 2023: Kijk mij!

A digitised copy of the unpublished dissertation by Jos M.M. Hermans (1949-2007) on northern Dutch bindings Boeken in Groningen voor 1600 is available here.

Kneep en binding, a terminology for describing bindings (Dutch, German, French and English)

  • Norway

Schøyen Collection, Oslo and London

  • Poland

Bookbindings in Polish collections

  • Spain

IBIS Base de datos del patrimonio bibliográfico de Patrimonio Nacional

Encuadernaciones de la Real Biblioteca, Madrid

Spanish Archival Bindings, 1300-1800 (research by Holly Robertson (University of Texas at Austin) at the Archives of Vilassar de Dalt, Spain)

  • Sweden


  • United Kingdom

British Library Database of Bookbindings with information on embroidered bindings and British Library book bindings on Wikimedia

British Armorial Database

Bodley's Luna service

British Bookbindings: 16th - 19th Century (created after an exhibition at the Hunterian Library, University of Glasgow)

St John's College, Cambridge

Scottish Decorative Bookbinding

Royal English Bookbindings by Cyril Davenport (1896)

Bookbindings from the Gilded Age

University of Manchester Image Library (including John Rylands bookbindings collection)

British Book Trade Index

Exeter Working Papers on Book History

National Art Library at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the General Catalogue contains details of their bindings

Hewit’s has links to binding sites in the UK and world wide and also ‘Skin Deep’ an ejournal of articles.

  • North America

Folger Bindings Image Collection

German Decorative Trade Bindings from the collections of the University of Wisconsin-Madison libraries

Gold-stamped publishers' bindigs of the 19th century (created after an exhibition in Kempner Gallery, Columbia University)

George Town University Library with Monastic bindings here

the Fine Art of British Bookbinding (exhibition at the Lilly Library, University of Indiana, featuring bindings commissioned in 1972 from artists and craftspeople in Great Britain).

Hand Bookbindings from Special Collections in the Princeton University Library

W.D. Jordan Special Collections and Music Library, Queen's University

Victorian Bookbinding, Innovation and Extravangance 1820-1910 (exhibition at University of North Texas Libraries)

Publishers' Bindings Online, 1815-1930 (University of Alabama)

Publishers'Bindings, 1830-1910 (Rare Book and Special Collections, University of Rochester)

Historic book formats

  • Glossaries:



Ligatus (www.ligatus.org.uk) is proud to announce the launch of the Language of Binding online thesaurus of bookbinding terms, which was celebrated with a one-day event in the Chelsea College of Arts(University of the Arts London) in collaboration with CERL on 23 June, 2015.

Ligatus is a research centre of the University of the Arts London with projects in libraries and archives and with a particular interest in historic bookbinding. The Language of Binding thesaurus is the result of our long experience with historic bookbindings, but has been greatly assisted by contributions from an international group of bookbinding experts and book conservators. This work was made possible by a Networking Grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the UK.

The aim of the thesaurus is to present a consistent vocabulary for the use of all those who work with early bindings, built wherever possible on existing resources, but adapted for use in an on-line hierarchical environment that will allow terms that are not known to a user to be found. It is constructed around concepts (such as different bookbinding components, features, materials or techniques) that can be expressed by a number of language terms (labels). The thesaurus allows one concept to have more than one label, which allows the same concept to be searched for by the different terms that may have been used historically to describe it. It will also allow the concepts to be expressed in different languages.

The Language of Binding thesaurus can be used as a reference online resource that can be searched by keyword or alphabetically. The concepts contained in the thesaurus are, however, also arranged hierarchically, based on a class/sub-class relationship, which allows concepts to be retrieved by navigating down the hierarchies even if their label (the term) is not known. It is hoped that the thesaurus will enable all those who work with books in early bindings to arrive at more consistent descriptions of those bindings. By being based primarily on single concepts, it has tried to avoid the more familiar but sometimes frustratingly imprecise language that has often been used in the past. This means that some of these familiar terms will not be found as labels, though they may be referred to in the scope notes that define and describe the concepts (and can therefore be found by a simple keyword search).

At the moment, the thesaurus contains labels primarily in English, but work on its translation has already started, and plans for the addition of illustrations are also underway. The thesaurus can, in addition, be used as a look-up service for software applications that need to populate schema fields from thesauri.

An accompanying (richly illustrated) volume, Coming to Terms: guidelines for the description of historical bindings, which is based on the terms in the thesaurus, is to be published in the autumn. The success of the thesaurus will to a large extent depend on contributions made to it by its users, either to add more concepts, refine existing scope notes or correct mistakes. Such contributions to the thesaurus will be welcomed, and can be made online following a registration process. The thesaurus can be accessed at: http://www.ligatus.org.uk/lob

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 collaboration/work/binding/main.txt · Last modified: 2024/02/28 14:07 by lefferts



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